Precocious Puberty in Girls and Boys – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

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Precocious Puberty is a singular condition marked by early adulthood in children. Read and know what is Precocious Puberty as well as its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and cure.

Precocious Puberty Definition

It is a disorder characterized by an abnormal early onset of puberty, where the human body undergoes through changes at an unusually early age.

The condition is also known as “Pubertas praecox”.

Precocious Puberty Types

Some of the different types of this condition are:

Central Precocious Puberty

This is a slightly different condition than normal Precocious Puberty and is characterized by the early development of the total hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis. This is associated with the entire spectrum of hormonal and physical changes of puberty.

Isosexual Precocious Puberty

It is marked by the appearance of secondary sexual characteristics in girls before age 8 and in boys before age 9. It usually occurs due to the early activation of the total hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis.

Incomplete Precocious Puberty

It is defined as isolated sexual characteristics mediated by male hormones or isolated development of breast in girls (premature thelarche). It is also marked by the development of acne, armpit and/or pubic hair and apocrine odor in girls or boys that are caused due to enhanced production of adrenal androgen (Premature Adrenarche).

Precocious Puberty Symptoms

The condition is marked by an onset of puberty before 10 years of age in boys and eight years of age in girls. This is an abnormal syndrome that gives rise to various physical and social problems. Due to this reason, doctors usually try to stop the process or reverse it, with the aim of making puberty begin at an age similar to normal individuals.

The symptoms of precocious puberty are more or less apparent, with the child beginning to display adult physical features like pubic hair and breast tissue. He or she may also begin to experience fluctuations in mood and emotion due to hormonal changes in body.

Precocious Puberty Signs in Girls

The condition arises in girls earlier than boys due to the simple reason that females experience puberty earlier than males. In girls, the syndrome is said to occur when any of these symptoms develop before age 8:

  • Faster growth
  • Beginning of periods (menstruation)
  • Development of breasts
  • Maturation of outer genitals
  • Growth of pubic or armpit hair

As per some evidence, however, these changes may occur normally as early as age 6 in girls of African-American origin and age 7 in girls of Caucasian descent.

Precocious Puberty Signs in Boys

Boys with this syndrome may begin to display any of these symptoms before 9 years of age:

  • Growth of the penis and testes
  • Development of pubic or armpit hair
  • Growth of facial hair, usually on the upper lip first
  • Growth of muscles
  • Change in voice quality (deepening of voice)

Precocious Puberty Causes

This condition often seems to arise without any definite cause, though some cases are believed to be the result of genetic problems, changes in the brain or some tumors that release hormones. These can be caused due to:

  • Hypothalamic hamartoma
  • McCune-Albright syndrome
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • Tumors releasing hCG hormone
  • Disorders of the adrenal glands, ovaries or testicles

This syndrome is usually believed to be a malfunction or damage in the brain that makes the hypothalamus transmit a message to the body, making it start puberty. It may also be caused due to heredity and presence of some underlying conditions.

The condition is also believed to be caused due to gender and origin. Gender is supposed to be a causative factor as girls are likelier to experience this syndrome than boys. Individuals of African-American descent are especially found to be at risk of having this syndrome.

Precocious Puberty Diagnosis

If parents suspect any of their children to be having this condition, they should seek immediate medical attention. Diagnosis should initially begin with a physical examination. In some cases, doctors use blood tests to measure hormone levels and detect the underlying cause of the condition.

Other medical tests used for its diagnosis include:

  • Blood hormone level testing
  • CT (Computed Tomography) scans of the brain
  • Abdominal CT scan
  • MRI (Magnetic Resistance Imaging) of the brain
  • MRI of the abdomen

Precocious Puberty Treatment

Treatment for this syndrome involves administering medicines to stop the process as well as curing the underlying cause. It is especially important to treat the cause in cases where tumors or other syndromes are involved. Doctors may use medicines to bring the release of sexual hormones to a stop. In rare cases, surgery is needed for the removal of some tumors.

Precocious Puberty Prognosis

Use of drugs can retard growth to 2–3 inches every year. This allows affected children to attain normal adult height. However, the long-term effects of medicinal treatment are not known.

If the condition results from a particular medical problem, treatment of the underlying problem can frequently bring the early puberty to a halt. Often, the condition can be seen to stop due to use of medicines that obstruct the hormones causing Precocious Puberty.

Precocious Puberty Complications

The condition, if left untreated, can give rise to various problems. The physical appearance of affected children may appear quite different from normal, healthy kids. Such individuals usually have a short stature as their growth stops at the end of puberty. In case of an early onset of puberty, the body of an affected child gets less time to grow. Their growth stops too early.

Kids with early sexual development are likelier to suffer from social and psychological problems. This is mainly due to the taunts that such individuals have to face from peers who have little sympathy for people who are different in physical appearance. Young children are usually unable to handle inferiority complex, even more at a time when their bodies go through rapid hormonal changes. This can make them suffer from low self-esteem, thereby turning to alcohol, drugs and other illegal substances for support. Such individuals can suffer from depression and act out at home and school. Males with early puberty can go on to suffer from lower fertility and even testicular cancer.

If your child is showing early signs of adulthood for his or her age, seek medical assistance immediately. Timely diagnosis and cure will help you treat the problem in time and avert all possible complications in future. It will ensure a normal growth and life for your child.

References:

http://www.healthofchildren.com/P/Precocious-Puberty.html

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001168.htm

http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/924002-overview

http://www.childrensmemorial.org/depts/endocrinology/precocious-puberty.aspx

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