Although precocious puberty is still relatively rare, incidences have been growing in recent years. According to the National Institute of Health, precocious puberty affects about 1% of the population, but this number continues to grow. While it can be an alarming condition to encounter, in most cases it is not serious and can be treated with medication if needed.
To answer questions about precocious puberty, we’re sharing the following guide. By learning more about the signs and symptoms to watch for, how to treat it, and how to meet care needs that may arise, you can make a sound and confident decision for the health and well-being of your family.
What is precocious puberty?
Precocious puberty is when puberty, or certain aspects of puberty, develop at a younger than normal age. The average age for the onset of puberty is usually around the age of 11 for girls and 12 for boys. While this age can be younger or older depending on the child, precocious puberty, or early puberty, develops before age eight in girls and nine in boys.
Types of Precocious Puberty
There are two main types of precocious puberty: central precocious puberty and peripheral precocious puberty. Central is caused by the early onset of the puberty process in the body, while peripheral is caused by the presence of excessive hormones in the body.
Both types of precocious puberty are more common in girls than boys. Additional risk factors include obesity and hormone exposure. It also tends to be more common among African American children. The severity of this condition can depend on the individual person, and include such factors as the degree and number of symptoms, and how early they occur.
Precocious Puberty Causes
Doctors and medical researchers still do not fully understand the underlying causes of precocious puberty. During normal puberty, the process begins when the body makes a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). This then triggers the production of male and female hormones and the signs we associate with puberty.
Particularly with central precocious puberty, doctors usually cannot understand why the body is producing GnRH earlier than expected. Like many other conditions, it may be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors such as poor nutrition or exposure to chemicals. In very rare cases, precocious puberty can be related to a tumor, birth defect, rare disorders, brain injury, or spinal cord injury.
Precocious Puberty Symptoms
Precocious puberty symptoms generally include the signs we associate with puberty developing at an abnormally young age, this includes:
First menstruation in girls
Early breast growth in girls
Early growth of penis and testicles in boys
Deepening of voice in boys
Rapid growth in height
Pubic hair growth
One of the biggest complications of precocious puberty is for children to not reach full height as an adult. Although the onset of early puberty causes initial rapid growth, the bones also stop growing earlier, causing affected children to often be shorter than average. Children with precocious puberty can also be at an increased risk of emotional and social problems.
How to Diagnose Precocious Puberty
When presented with precocious puberty, doctors will usually discuss symptoms, review medical history, and perform a physical examination. The primary goal of the diagnosis is to determine the type of precocious puberty, and if possible, the cause. Additional tests and imagery may be needed to rule out a related condition.
Precocious Puberty Treatment
Often, the primary goal of treatment is to slow down the early puberty to minimize symptoms and increase the chances of achieving a normal height. This is usually accomplished through a treatment called GnRH analog therapy, which consists of a monthly injection of a medicine designed to slow down and delay further development.
Therapy can also be accomplished through a minor surgical procedure that avoids the need for regular injections through a small implant placed under the skin.
If there is another condition present that is causing the onset of puberty, that condition will generally need to be treated to slow down the development of pubescent symptoms.
Caring for a Child With Precocious Puberty
Children dealing with precocious puberty will need extra care and attention. Talk to your doctor about ways to communicate this condition to your child. It is important to give them lots of love and acceptance, and let them know that just because their body is changing early, there isn’t anything wrong.
To overcome emotional distress and social problems, many families find success from counseling and support groups.
Especially for busy families, meeting the needs of a child with precocious puberty may be more challenging than they expect. This can include accompanying your child to regular appointments for treatment and therapy, dietary needs, administering medication, and ensuring they have a safe and supervised environment. To help with these and other challenges, pediatric home health services can provide the level of support your family needs. A qualified and caring home health professional can help you and your child manage this time with peace of mind so everyone can have the best possible quality of life.
Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care
It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help. We have been enforcing precautionary measures and following the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 to ensure the safety and health of our clients and employees.
Our home health care services offer one-on-one support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.
If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.