Puberty is the process of physical changes through which a child’s body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction.
Puberty is the process of physical changes through which a child’s body matures into an adult body capable of sexual reproduction. It is initiated by hormonal signals from the brain to the primary reproductive organs which are the ovaries in a girl, the testes in a boy.
What is early puberty?
Early puberty or precocious puberty is when a child’s body begins changing into that of an adult earlier than the usual age. When puberty begins before age 8 in girls and before age 9 in boys, it is considered precocious puberty.
What are the causes of early puberty?
The cause of early puberty may not always be known. This can run in families too.
Sometimes, certain conditions, such as infections, hormone disorders, tumours, brain abnormalities or injuries, may lead to early puberty. It is increasing, especially among girls. The likely cause may be childhood obesity coupled with physical inactivity.
What are the symptoms of early puberty in a girl?
Below are a few symptoms that indicate early puberty:
- Breast growth and first period in girls before the age of 8
- Growth of pubic or underarm hair
- Rapid growth in height and body structure
- Adult body odour
When to see a doctor?
You should visit a doctor along with your child for an evaluation if your child has any of the signs or symptoms of precocious puberty.
How is testing done to diagnose early puberty?
Your doctor will perform a physical exam to assess how your child’s body is maturing. Blood tests may also uncover hormonal changes. Your doctor may schedule an X-ray of your child’s hand and wrist to evaluate growth and bone maturity. Additional tests may include an ultrasound for girls to check for ovarian cysts, or a brain MRI for boys and girls to look for abnormalities.
Are there any complications with early puberty?
Possible complications of precocious puberty include:
- Short height: Children with early puberty may grow quickly at first and be tall, compared with their peers. But, because their bones mature more quickly than normal, they often stop growing earlier than usual. This can cause them to be shorter than average as adults.
- Social and emotional problems: Kids who begin puberty early may be extremely self-conscious about the changes occurring in their bodies. Girls with precocious puberty, for example, may be confused or embarrassed about getting their periods or having enlarged breasts well before any of their peers. They may be treated differently because they look older.
- Going through puberty early also can be hard for kids emotionally as well. Girls can become moody and irritable and their self-esteem may get affected.
What are the ways to prevent early puberty?
- Avoid giving your child any external sources of estrogen and testosterone — such as prescription medications for adults or dietary supplements that have estrogen or testosterone.
- Encourage your child to maintain a healthy weight
The important thing to note is that doctors can treat precocious or early puberty. They can help kids keep their adult height potential and limit the emotional and social stress kids may face from maturing early hence if you think your child is showing symptoms of early puberty, make sure to get a proper check-up and treatment done.
Special thanks to Dr Moushami Das Ghosh (MD( OBGYN), FICOG )for expert advice.