Think back to your puberty. Remember the pain, the hormonal changes that you could not understand. It does not seem too good, does it? But at least you had somebody to talk to about it (those friends whose faces had that ‘been there, done that’ expression or a pale horrific one, or your parents who knew that life was going to be tough for them during your puberty), and had a fairly well enough idea of how to go about it.
But think about how difficult it would have been if you could not even express what you felt.
That is what happened with a one-year old toddler, whose parents noticed some abnormal changes in him and growth in his genitals when he was just six months into this world. He was diagnosed with Precocious Puberty at 18 months when the doctors noticed facial and body hair, high testosterone level and fully developed sexual organs in him. (He is certainly way ahead of Justin Bieber though.)
Anyway, it would not have been a great sight, and devastatingly hard to take in. But, is that even possible brings us to the question of..
What is Precocious Puberty?
So, precocious puberty is just like normal puberty only that it occurs unusually early. All the characteristics (development of sexual organs, menstruation, cracking of voice) are evident in girls before the age of 8, and before 9 in boys. Though, it’s very rare: 1 in 10,000.
There are two kinds of Precocious Puberty.
In Central Precocious Puberty, the pituitary gland is prompted to produce hormones, called gonadotropins very early. These hormones in turn stimulate the testicles or ovaries to make testosterone and estrogen responsible for puberty.
Though rarer, Peripheral precocious puberty is usually a local problem with the ovaries, testicles, adrenal gland, or a severely underactive thyroid gland.
Why does it happen?
Usually it is just a variation of its normal counterpart, or happens because of genetics, or obesity (in girls). In a minority of cases it can be triggered by serious diseases like tumours, brain injury, and inflammation of the brain (minority, don’t fret).
What are the consequences of early puberty?
Well, it leads to a disruption in height, as the growth in an individual’s stature usually stops after puberty (even Complan cannot help, sadly). It also causes a lot of behavioural problems.
I am sure a 6 year old playing with her GI Joes would not even understand if her periods were just like, “I am here. I will come every month. Now you are a woman. Embrace it.”
It is stressful even at a normal age (ugh, the horror *FLASHBACK*), imagine the scenario at a younger age: little kids unable to fathom the emotional and physical changes, induced with a high level of stress, struggling with rising sexual urges. You get the seriousness now?
Is there a treatment?
Usually attaining puberty is good (unless you are Miley Cyrus and you lose it in life) as it turns you from a crying little wimpy baby to a beautiful individual (life still makes you cry though).
But, like premature ejaculation, premature puberty is not the best to have.
To treat it, medications called GnRH analogs work by blocking the hormones coming from the pituitary gland that trigger puberty. On other thoughts I wish we could block the hormones of some people who cannot control them themselves *rolls eyes*. Anyway, most children who need treatment get these medicines as injections or implants. Nasal sprays are also provided daily. And surgery is necessary in the case of tumours.
So, Precocious puberty is VERY difficult for both the parents and the children, and even though it is very rare, awareness about it should be spread so that the parents know what is happening in their child’s body is not normal, and get it treated.
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