Early or precocious puberty describes the condition in which the child’s body acquires the primary and secondary characteristics of its sex before the age of 8 for girls and 9 for boys. It is characterised by increased hormone levels and rapid bone and muscle growth. In addition to physical symptoms, early puberty also affects the psychology of the child.
What is the cause of early puberty?
In girls, early puberty is not usually due to a medical issue, while in boys it may be associated with a disorder of the central nervous system. Infections, tumours, hormonal disorders, injuries or brain disorders are less common causes of early puberty.
Signs of early puberty depend on the sex of the child. Girls show signs of breast growth, onset of menstrual bleeding, acne, pubic or underarm hair development, and growth spurt. Boys present with a deepened voice, pubic, underarm or facial hair development and enlargement of testicles or penis.
What is partial early puberty?
A small percentage of children may experience partial early puberty, which is defined as the appearance of signs of puberty when the child is very young: up to two years of age. For example, some girls develop breasts in the first few months of their lives, which may disappear or continue to exist without further changes related to puberty. In this case, the child should be examined by an endocrinologist to rule out the possibility of actual early puberty or other health problems. In most such cases no treatment is required.
How is early puberty diagnosed?
Early puberty is diagnosed through tests, including a wrist and hand x-ray and ultrasound of the ovaries, MRI and stimulation test with the administration of intravenous LHRH (this test can be performed at MITERA Children’s Hospital).
How is early puberty treated?
The treatment of early puberty depends on the cause. If the stimulation test is positive for central precocious puberty, GnRH analogue is administered once a month to delay the development of the child and inhibit adolescence.
The Paediatric-Adolescent Diabetes clinic at MITERA Children’s Hospital is run by Dr Nikolaos Kefalas, Paediatrician-Endocrinologist. The team is comprised of nurses, paediatric endocrinologist, psychologist and clinical dietician-nutritionist who oversee the treatment, support and education of children with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, at both the initial diagnosis and during the subsequent progression of the disease.