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Gonadotropins are hormones released by the pituitary gland that are responsible for stimulating the gonads (ovaries and testes) to produce sex hormones. The sex hormones, in turn, cause sexual development and maturation.
Abnormally early puberty is called precocious puberty and is characterized by the early development of sexual characteristics in girls before the age of 8 and in boys before the age of 9. Most children with the disorder grow fast at first, but also finish growing before reaching their full genetic height potential. Left untreated, most boys will not grow taller than 5 feet 2 inches, and girls often do not grow taller than 5 feet.
Early puberty and sexual development may be caused by tumors or growths of the ovaries, adrenal glands, pituitary gland, or brain. Other causes may include central nervous system abnormalities, family history of the disease, or certain rare genetic syndromes. In many cases, no cause can be found for the disorder. Two types of precocious puberty include the following:
The following are the most common symptoms of precocious puberty. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. As in normal puberty, symptoms of precocious puberty include the onset of secondary sexual characteristics, including:
Other characteristics of the disorder include the following:
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination of your child, diagnosis of precocious puberty may include:
Specific treatment for precocious puberty will be determined by your child's physician based on:
The goal of treatment for precocious puberty is to stop, and possibly reverse, the onset of early puberty symptoms. Treatment will also depend on the type of precocious puberty and the underlying cause, if known.
New developments in hormone treatments for precocious puberty have led to the successful use of synthetic luteinizing-releasing hormone (LHRH). This synthetic hormone appears to stop the sexual maturation process brought on by the disorder by halting the pituitary gland from releasing the gonadotropin hormones.
Early puberty will cause a child's body to change much sooner than his/her peers. This sense of being different, coupled with the hormonal change-induced emotional mood swings, may make a child feel self-conscious. Your child may feel uncomfortable about his/her sexual changes, as well. Helping your child cope with teasing from his/her peers, treating your child appropriately for his/her age, and boosting your child's self-esteem are important steps to help your child adjust more appropriately.
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