Failure to thrive is a phrase that most often describes children who are falling short of their expected growth and development. It can also occur in adults as a result of the aging process.
What Is Failure To Thrive?
A child may be diagnosed with failure to thrive when their weight or the rate at which they are gaining weight falls significantly below that of children who are in their same age and gender.
Children and infants who fail to thrive appear dramatically shorter and smaller than others their age, while teens might appear short and lack the typical changes seen at puberty.
It is important to note, however, that children grow and develop on their own schedule. Therefore, the rate of change in their height and weight is often a greater consideration than the actual measurements. A child who is small for his or her age but is growing on a curve may not have failure to thrive. It is typically diagnosed during a child’s infant years.
The children and infants who fail to thrive will have a weight, head circumference and height that does not coincide with the figures on standard growth charts. For example, their weight will be below the third percentile or 20 percent lower than the weight that is considered ideal for their height. In some cases, their growth may have slowed or stopped after previously following an established growth curve.
Some physical skills may be delayed, such as sitting, walking, standing or rolling over. These children may also be slow to develop social and mental skills as well as the secondary sexual characteristics that emerge in adolescence. A lack of emotions, such as making eye contact, laughing or smiling, may also be a sign of failure to thrive.
Regular checkups can usually prevent failure to thrive or pick up on signs early enough to address it before it becomes a problem.
In older adults occurs when an elderly person loses their appetite, drinks and eats less than usual, loses significant weight and becomes less active than normal. They might also lose interest in socialization and have trouble with thinking and memory.
Adult failure to thrive is a manifestation of several underlying physical, mental and psychosocial conditions. Such adults typically need assistance with activities of daily living such as feeding, bathing and dressing.
The Causes Of It
The most common cause of failure to thrive is inadequate caloric intake. Some of the factors that may contribute to poor nutrition include poverty, poor feeding habits, neglect, mental trauma and physical abuse. In some cases, parents might not understand how to feed their children appropriately, while the loss of an emotional bond between a parent and child may also be a factor.
It may also arise because of food allergies. For example, a child who has a milk allergy may experience failure to thrive because their bodies do not take in enough calcium. Celiac disease, a digestive disorder that is caused by an abnormal reaction by the body’s immune system to gluten, may also lead to problems absorbing nutrients from food, which can lead to malnutrition and failure to thrive. Being small for their age is one of the major signs of Celiac disease in children.
Children who experience a serious medical problem in the first few years of their life can develop failure to thrive, as can children who have a low birth weight or are born prematurely. Many times, a cause of failure to thrive cannot be determined.
In adults, it can be difficult to establish what is causing failure to thrive as it is often a combination of physical and mental problems. Reactions to certain medications may also play a role.
Here is a look at some of the other potential causes of failure to thrive.
A chromosomal abnormality such as Down syndrome may be behind failure to thrive.
In Down syndrome, a child is born with an additional copy of the 21st chromosome. This can lead to mental and physical developmental disabilities and delays, many of which are lifelong. People with Down syndrome can enjoy a fulfilling and healthy life with the right type of care.
Turner syndrome is another chromosomal abnormality that may cause failure to thrive.
Affecting only girls, this syndrome occurs when one X chromosome is fully or partially missing. It can lead to developmental and medical problems such as short height, heart defects and ovary development problems. This condition cannot be cured, but treatment can help.
Defects In Major Organ Systems
Defects in major organ systems can play a role in failure to thrive. For example, a problem with the child’s endocrine system, such as a deficiency in thyroid hormones or growth hormone, can stunt their development. Problems with the heart or lung that affect the way nutrients move throughout the body can also play a role.
Gastrointestinal problems that make it hard for a child to absorb nutrients properly or that lead to a lack of digestive enzymes could also contribute to failure to thrive.
Damage To The Brain Or Nervous System
Some children’s failure to thrive may be traced to damage to their central nervous system or brain that makes it difficult for them to eat properly. This leads to malnutrition and prevents them from growing properly.
Anemia Or Blood Disorders
Anemia and other blood disorders can cause failure to thrive. Anemia occurs when the amount of red blood cells in a child’s body is below normal. Red blood cells are filled with hemoglobin, which helps to deliver the oxygen that organs and muscles need to survive. The most common cause of anemia is an iron deficiency, but it may also arise because of an underlying illness or inherited red blood cell disorder such as sickle-cell anemia.
It is important to note that failure to thrive can also arise without a specific medical cause. In older adults, the recent loss of a loved one, social isolation, depression, dementia, swallowing problems and loss of vision or hearing may increase the risk of failure to thrive.
Talk To The Professionals At Comfort Home Care
Watching a loved one deal with failure to thrive, whether it is a child or a senior, can be difficult, but help is available. Talk to the professionals at Comfort Home Care to find out how their experienced aids can help support your loved one’s activities of daily living.