Precocious Puberty – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis

When the sexual characters begin to appear before the usual period it is known as precocious puberty. Bodily changes happen sometime before actual puberty happens. Puberty age differs from one child to another with respect to culture, history, gender and nutrition given to the child. There is no specific cause for getting precocious puberty. Changes in brain such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia can cause puberty earlier. Some disorders in ovaries and testicles may trigger precocious puberty. In rare cases, tumors are known to cause this type of puberty.

The symptoms are developed breasts, hair in the armpits and genital areas, fast rate of growth and fully grown genitals. For some children, there may be voice change due to hormone secretion and growth of hair on face and above the upper lip. Generally no treatment is required for precocious puberty. If the parents feel that the children has attained much early consult your doctor who would suggest medicines for stopping the growth of sexual hormones. Support from parents and friends are enough to set right the problem.

What Is Precocious Puberty ?

Puberty is that time of life at which a girl or boy becomes mature sexually. A child’s body would begin to change into an adult forming breast in girls and moustache in boys. Precocious puberty is a rare condition in which the child’s body gets into adulthood too soon. Normally girls become physically mature between 11 and 14 years and boys it ranges from 12-16 years. But if a girl or boy attains puberty at young age of 8 or 9 years it is known as precocious puberty.

The child’s body will soon undergo rapid changes like growth of muscles and bones, changes in size and shape of the body etc. Hormone disorders or any abnormal brain injury can cause precocious puberty. Apart from physical growth it causes tremendous emotional growth in children and they still remain as a child mentally in contrast to physical growth. This condition can be treated with medication and parental support. Central precocious puberty is more common in girls than boys and is high in specific race like Hispanic or African American.

Precocious Puberty Symptoms :

Some of the signs of precocious puberty in girls are growth of breasts and getting periods or menstruation. In boys it is visible through hoarse voice, growth of facial hair (more on the upper lips) and enlarged size of penis and testicles. The body of such children begins to grow rapidly with bones and muscle and both sexes would develop acne on their face and underarm hair. Adult body odor can be felt in both boys and girls due to hormonal changes. If you could find such changes in your daughter or son at early stages, it is time to consult your GP to prevent further growth.

Precocious Puberty Causes :

  • What exactly triggers puberty in early age is not known.
  • Under normal condition puberty is a step-wise process wherein the brain initiates producing gonadotropin releasing hormone. Then pituitary gland produces two important hormones called LH and FSH. Next sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone are gradually released in the body responsible for producing secondary sexual characteristics.
  • However in children who attain physical maturity earlier no identifiable cause is found.
  • It is believed to happen if there is any defect in the brain, or abnormality in the spinal cord, or if there is sudden injury to the brain or spine at that age.
  • McCune Albright Syndrome can also cause hormonal changes and hypothyroidism (not producing enough of thyroid hormones) can be a cause of precocious puberty.
  • Any problems in the ovary or testicles can trigger production of Gn RH hormone in the brain. Cyst in the ovary or testicle can be the indirect cause of peripheral precocious puberty.
  • Over exposure to sex hormones containing creams like estrogen or testosterone can activate precocious puberty in children.
  • Tumor in the ovary (girls) or in the scrotum (boys) can cause precocious puberty.
  • Defective gene mutation can also attribute for this condition. Lastly childhood obesity can also cause precocious puberty.

Who Are At Risk?

More girls than boys are at risk of having precocious puberty. Other risk factors of precocious puberty include being obese or overweight, belonging to specific race like African-American, being exposed to sex hormones and having undergone radiation treatment in young age. Early puberty can cause emotional as well as social problems. Such children would become self conscious with their growing body which can affect their self esteem. Further these children may grow taller quickly but in later stage the bones growth would often stop. This would make them shorter than their peers.

Precocious Puberty Diagnosis :

The doctor will do physical examination of the child and request for blood test to check the hormone levels. He would also find out the bone age of the child by taking an X-ray. Gonadotropin releasing hormone test will be done using blood sample. If needed, thyroid hormone test would be done. MRI scan can be done to rule out any abnormality in the brain.

Pictures of Precocious Puberty :

Images, Pics, Pictures and Photos of Precocious Puberty

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Precocious Puberty Treatment :

The treatment can be done only to postpone the growth of the hormone in your child. He would recommend drugs to block the release of sex hormones. Gonadotropin release hormone is disrupted by giving an injection of leuprolide which can be repeated once in a while. For some children a small device is implanted under the skin of upper arm to block the release of hormone. The treatment has to be continued till the child attains the right age for puberty. Once the treatment is stopped the process of puberty will begin. If the child has any tumor in the brain or spinal cord surgery can be done to remove the tumor.

Emotional Support :

A child who attains puberty before the right age can suffer from emotional problem. The child may feel different from his/her peers which can affect his/her self esteem. Parent should be very supportive during the course of treatment and if necessary psychological counseling can be given. Early growth of bones might cause problem later. However after certain years, the bone growth may stop and your child would be shorter in height than others. If given prompt treatment early bone growth can be reduced so that the bone would grow in the normal rate.

Prevention :

Nothing can be done to prevent precocious puberty. Ensure that the child is not using any promotional hormones like estrogen or testosterone in the form of pills or creams.

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