What is precocious puberty?
It is a condition that children begin entering into adolescents earlier than their regular period. For girls with precocious puberty conditions, they will enter adulthood at less than 8 years old. Boys with precocious puberty conditions will enter adulthood at the age of 9 years old. In general, girls will enter adolescence at around 8-13 years ago and boys at 9-14 years old.
Signs and symptoms
For girls – When try to palpate either one or both breasts before the age of 8, if there is a small bump under the areola, or found any menstruation sign before the age of 9 years and a half. Another sign is the growth spurt that is visibly seen.
For boys – There are signs of enlarging penis and testicles and shown signs of pubic hair before 9 years old.
For girls – There is no found cause for about 90% of the girls with precocious puberty. The minority causes of girls with precocious puberty are pathological brain lesions, ovarian tumors, or sex steroid exposure from environmental factors. For those with no visible reason, it is found that overweight girls are more likely to develop precocious puberty than those of average weight.
For boys – The causes are pathological brain lesions, adrenal glands disorders, pituitary tumors, or sex steroids exposure from environmental factors.
Physical effects – For this group of children, there will be an increased growth rate for their heights from puberty to be taller than other children in the same age range. However, it is because of a significant increase in the bone age, which results in their growth in height to stop. In some cases, it results in their height potential to be less than their actual genetics height, causing them to become shorter than average when they become adults.
Mental effects – For girls, there will be physical changes in adolescence, while their mental statuses remain a child. It may result in bullying from peers, encounter problems with menstruation, and not know the proper ways to take care of themselves during the menstruation period. They could also face sexual harassment issues. For boys, they may develop aggressive behaviors or sexual desires.
The doctor will ask about the health history and record of previous height growth. He or she will also perform a physical examination to assess precocious puberty conditions and perform an x-ray of the left hand and wrist to determine the bone age. Suppose the doctor found that the child has a significantly increased bone age. The doctor will order a gonadotropin-stimulating hormone (GnRH) stimulation test to determine the hormone levels and evaluate if the child has precocious puberty conditions.
After diagnosing the precocious puberty conditions, the doctor may order additional tests such as a brain MRI and an abdominal ultrasound to find the specific cause in some of the cases.
- If there is a cause, the treatment will be given based on the causes accordingly.
- If there is no visible cause, the doctor may consider the treatments using sex steroid inhibitors through injections. The treatment will consist of the injection every month to prohibit the child from entering the adolescent stage and delay the bone age so that the child will grow at an average rate.
How to reduce the risk of precocious puberty?
Parents should raise the child to be able to grow in the usual growth standard. The child should consume different variations of food with complete nutrition and should avoid sweet or fried foods. There is currently no clear evidence that poultry consumption can cause precocious puberty. Besides eating the right food, the child should exercise regularly and have an adequate amount of sleep.