For Game of Thrones Fans. Some facts about dwarfs (Don't call them elves!)

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If you're not a Game of Thrones fans, you should change that status immediately. Yes, it is that great. And one of the many things that makes it great is the character Tyrion Lannister, who is played by the incomparable Peter Dinklage.

Photos: IMDb (left), NY Daily News (right)

Dinklage, 48, is a dwarf, who stands at 4'5". While dwarfs have usually been cast the butt of jokes, Dinklage will no longer play leprechauns or elves. He is a serious and infinitely talented actor who has unquestionably challenged people's views of dwarfism with his witty, acerbic and complex role as Tyrion Lannister, who many think is the best character on the show (and maybe even carries it). Dinklage is no fan of how dwarfs have been portrayed in the past:

"This is screwed up. Dwarves are still the butt of jokes. It’s one of the last bastions of acceptable prejudice. Not just by people who’ve had too much to drink in England and want to throw a person. But by media, everything...You can say no. You can not be the object of ridicule.”

Peter Dinklage in a New York Times interview, 2012.

As I read the article in Medical News Today, I was surprised to discover how little I knew about dwarfism. Dwarfism is both simple and complex. It is simply defined as "being short," but an advocacy group called Little People of America, define "short" as when an adult is less than 4 foot 10 inches.

Dwarfism is not a disease, and it has multiple causes, genetic and developmental, any one of which can lead to health problems later in life. The most common class is called skeletal dysplasias, in which the bones grow out of proportion with each other, causing abnormal proportions in the body of the dwarf. Interestingly, sufferers of skeletal dysplasias have parents who are of normal height.

 Dinklage's condition is called achondroplasia, which is considered to be genetic and is seen immediately at birth. This form of dwarfism is characterized by a large forehead and very short arms and legs. They are prone to develop scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine, which can cause problems breathing. In rare cases, some fetuses will inherit two copies of the mutated gene that causes achondroplasia and will frequently not be born alive. 

Another fairly common type of dwarfism is called Spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia congenita (SEDc), which is more serious. This is also a genetic condition, which consists of joint diseases, cleft palates, a flat face and hip and spine problems.

Other causes of dwarfism which are not genetic can result from inadequate levels of growth hormones the inability to synthesize or properly metabolize some nutrients. The dwarfism can be often be reversed in these cases, although there is some controversy about the use of the powerful drugs needed to do so in children.  For a review of some of these conditions and their treatment, see Pediatric Growth Hormone Deficiency

Medical News Today says, "Most people with dwarfism can do everything average height people can." OK, that's a bit of hyperbole. Peter Dinklage is wonderful in so many ways, but I don't foresee him dunking on LeBron James anytime soon. 


Dinklage may be short, but that didn't stop him from becoming the trusted advisor to Emilia Clarke, aka "Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons." They sure like do like to have a lot of titles, no? Photo: Entertainment Weekly