Precocious puberty is a condition in which puberty is attained or a child’s body begins changing to that of an adult too earlier. When puberty is attained before the age of 8 in females and 9 in males, it is considered as precocious puberty.
The production of estrogen in females and testosterone in males leads to puberty. This can occur earlier in life than expected due to many factors including:
- Tumour in brain and/or spinal cord
- Radiation exposure to brain and/or spinal cord
- Injury to brain and/or spinal cord
- Congenital brain defects such as hydrocephalus
- Other endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism
- Tumour in adrenal or pituitary glands
- Ovarian cysts or tumours in females
- Tumour in the germ cells or leydig cells in males
- Genetic disorders
- Exposure to external sources of estrogen or testosterone
The following developments in the body can be considered as precocious puberty if they occur before the age of 8 in females and 9 in males:
- Occurence of first menstrual period and breast growth in females.
- Voice deepening, appearance of facial hair, descending scrotum, enlarged testicles and penis in males.
- Appearance of pubic hair.
- Rapid growth such as increase in height.
- Changes in body odour
- Increased aggression
- Appearance of acne
Diagnostic procedure for precocious puberty includes:
- Review of signs and symptoms
- Medical history
- Family history
- Blood tests
- Imaging procedures such as MRI
Other procedures might be done to determine the type of precocious puberty, the underlying cause and other associated conditions.
Measures to reduce chances of precocious puberty include:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Intake of healthy and balanced diet
- Avoid exposure to external sources of estrogen and testosterone
- Avoid dietary supplements and limit food items that boosts the production of estrogen and testosterone.
The treatment goals for precocious puberty can be to limit the rate of rapid growth and attain a normal growth. Treatment measures for precocious puberty depends on the cause.
- In cases where there is no identifiable cause, the doctor might recommend constant and periodic monitoring if the child’s development.
- In most of the cases, medications are used to control the hormone levels.
- Surgical procedure might be required in conditions like pituitary tumours.
Likewise, treatment measures differ with respect to the cause or underlying conditions.
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