Josh Ryan Evans: Life With Achondroplasia

Standing at 3'2", Josh Ryan Evans used his short stature to his advantage

Josh Ryan Evans
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Most people would consider being 3'2" tall a disability. But to actor Josh Ryan Evans, this short stature was a career advantage. Evans's small frame was due to achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. According to USA Today, Evans saw the upsides of his height, saying, "My size is an asset to me. People write roles for me. If I was just another blond-haired, brown-eyed, 18-year-old actor, I'd be left unrecognized.

People remember me."

Evans proved his point, starring in movies such as How The Grinch Stole Christmas (he portrayed the Grinch as a child) and on NBC's soap opera "Passions" (he played Timmy, the living doll). Evans made his film debut as a toddler in the movie "Baby Geniuses." As he got older, his youthful look and voice remained, making him a shoe-in for memorable child characters. In addition to his film and soap opera roles, he also made guest appearances on the television shows "Ally McBeal" and "7th Heaven." Evans was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award and won two Soap Opera Digest Awards. He died on August 5, 2002, at age 20, during a medical procedure related to a congenital heart condition.

What Is Achondroplasia?

Achondroplasia is a genetic condition that causes very short stature, known as dwarfism. A gene defect on the fourth chromosome causes problems with bone growth especially in the upper arm (humerus) and upper leg (femur).

This form of dwarfism affects less than 1 in 20,000 births and affects both genders and all ethnic backgrounds. In most cases, 75 to 80 percent of the time, there is no family history of achondroplasia.

People with achondroplasia typically grow to be about four feet tall. The severity of the disorder can vary.

In extreme cases, the condition can cause stillbirths or death shortly after birth. Achondroplasia can also cause neurological problems, some of which can be fatal.

Living With Achondroplasia

Signs of achondroplasia are typically noticeable at birth. Babies with the condition have an appropriate-sized torso but their arms and legs are too short. Other characteristics include a larger than average head and stubby fingers and toes.

Babies with achondroplasia tend to have trouble reaching developmental milestones. It might take them longer to sit, stand, and walk alone. Despite these challenges, there usually are no mental development issues. When these children start walking, they may become bow-legged. Some children may also have frequent ear infections and develop a sway-back (lower back lordosis).

As they age, those with achondroplasia may experience leg pain, as well as paralysis that prevents walking. Surgery can relieve any pressure that has built up in the spine. 

There is no cure for achondroplasia, but most people tend to live normal and fairly active lives.  

March of Dimes. Fact Sheet on Achondroplasia.
Johns Hopkins Department of Orthopedic Surgery. Patient Guide to Achondroplasia.

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