Early or Delayed Puberty

early or delayed puberty.

Puberty is the physical, sexual, and emotional development of children, which marks the transition to adulthood. On average, puberty begins between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and between the ages of 9 and 14 for boys.

The hypothalamus is the part of the brain that initiates puberty by stimulating the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland releases other hormones, which talk with the ovaries and testes. These organs produce the hormones responsible for physical and sexual development.

When a girl or boy enters the pubescent development stage younger than the average age, it is referred to as early or precocious puberty. Conversely, when the development starts later than the average, the condition is referred to as delayed puberty.

Early/ Precocious Puberty 

The signs of early puberty include the following physical attributes earlier than the average age:

Girls (less than age 8)

  • Breast Growth
  • First Period/Vaginal Bleeding
  • Pubic & Underarm Hair
  • Rapid Growth
  • Adult Body Odor
  • Acne

Boys (less than age 9)

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vision problems

There are two types of early puberty, central precocious puberty and peripheral precocious puberty.   

Central Precocious Puberty

Central precocious puberty is the most common form of early puberty and is more common in girls.  In this form of early puberty, the pituitary gland begins making the hormones that stimulate the development of the ovaries and testes.   The development is similar to normal puberty, but it simply happens early.  

Peripheral Precocious Puberty

Peripheral precocious puberty is the less common form of early puberty. While it is also caused by production of the hormones testosterone and estrogen, the pituitary gland is not involved, thus “peripheral” to the pituitary gland.  In these situations, the problem typically stems from issues with the ovaries, testicles or nervous system abnormalities.

two girls at school.Known Causes 

Central precocious puberty is largely idiopathic (unknown), but family genetics may be contributors to the condition.  

Peripheral precocious puberty is rarer than central precocious puberty, but its causes include:

  • Genetic Syndromes
  • Tumors
  • Brain or Spinal Injuries
  • Infections
  • Central Nervous System Abnormalities
  • Adrenal Disorders
  • Thyroid Disorders
  • Use of certain creams or ointments that contain testosterone, estrogen, or placental parts

Delayed Puberty 

As mentioned above, in situations when a girl or boy passes through the normal age range for puberty without showing any signs of body changes or sexual development, the condition is referred to as delayed puberty.   

The signs of delayed puberty include the following:

Girls (over age 14)

  • No Breast Development
  • No Menstruation 
  • Absence of Pubic Hair 
  • Short Stature

Boys (over age 15)

  • No Testicular Enlargement
  • No Penis Development
  • Short Stature
  • Absence of Pubic Hair 

Known Causes 

Delayed puberty is most often attributed to family genetics.  In other words, it is a growth pattern consistent with other members of the family. 

However, there are medical problems that can be directly attributed to delayed puberty.  They include:

  • Pituitary Gland Disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Malnutrition
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Kidney Disease
  • Thyroid Gland Disorders
  • Chromosome Disorders

Diagnosis and Treatment

Children with either early or delayed puberty may not need treatment if it is determined that family genetics are the cause.  However, when there is an underlying condition, abnormal pubertal development can be treated with medication to accelerate or slow the development process.  

Dr. Joshua Smith is a pediatric endocrinologist who can help!  He is an expert in identifying the causes of early or delayed puberty.   After a careful evaluation and diagnosis from Dr. Smith, treatment options can be identified and prescribed.  

Pediatric Endocrinology Specialist

If your child is experiencing early or delayed puberty symptoms, call Dr. Joshua Smith for an appointment, or fill out the form below.  

Dr. Smith is the region’s only specialist in pediatric endocrinology and is specifically trained to properly diagnose and treat both early and delayed puberty.  

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