Puberty is a stage of human life during which individuals become sexually active and fertile. During the puberty people develop their bodily odors, underarm and pubic hair, menstrual bleeding and an increased growth rate, leading them into adulthood over the course of several years.
However, some people develop these signs of puberty prematurely, at a very young age. Most of the time, this is triggered by some underlying health problems, even though many other factors may influence the onset of this condition, also known as precocious puberty.
Early Sexual Maturity
Taking into consideration that people develop their sexual, physical, hormonal and reproductive characteristics during puberty, early onset of this stage brings about all these changes prematurely. Normally, these changes occur between the age of 9 and 16 in girls while affecting boys between the age of 13 and 15.
The age and the time of the appearance of puberty vary between individuals. Therefore, girls enter this stage of life before boys, especially when it comes to African American individuals. Additionally, racial differences affect the time of appearance of puberty, both in boys and girls.
Some of the first signs of precocious puberty in girls are breast enlargement, appearance of pubic and underarm hair and underarm odor, being noticeable at the same time.
All these changes are a sign of an increase in estrogen production. Due to this activity, the breasts may appear symmetrical or not, with the nipples becoming darker and more prominent. Upon being physically examined, girls undergoing precocious puberty may not show signs of pubic hair, even though the clitoris may be enlarged. However, the pink vaginal mucosa will be a sign of puberty since before this stage, the mucosa is deep-red.
Presence of acne is a sign of a precocious puberty and this clue may help the doctors and parents notice that some hormonal anomalies may be present in the child.
Usually, up to 3 years after the formation of the breast tissue, menarche appears. However, with precocious puberty, this metamorphosis can strike one earlier.
As far as boys are concerned, precocious puberty results in the enlargement of the testicles and the sped up rate of bodily growth and development.
Increased testosterone production in boys signifies early puberty. Also, if the pubic hair appears without the enlargement of testicles, this can be a sign of increased androgen production before adequate time.
Other early signs of puberty are voice changes, appearance of acne, growth of facial hair and all other occurrences which normally take place later in the life of a child.
Causes of Early Puberty
Most commonly, this phenomenon cannot be explained and the changes in children appear without any specific causes. Yet, taking into consideration that the human pituitary gland is responsible for most of the hormone production processes in our body, it is usually the underlying culprit behind precocious puberty.
Alternatively, adrenal gland dysfunction, ovary or testicle abnormalities or some other medical conditions can be responsible for the appearance of this form of premature puberty. Currently, scientists are doing their best to find better methods for diagnosing and helping children who enter puberty early.
Furthermore, the reasons behind precocious puberty can be genetic, especially if the parents or relatives of the affected child have gone through the same changes when they were young. Some other potential causes of precocious puberty are excessive body weight and the racial characteristics of the child.
In fact, according to a research carried out in the 1970s, increased body mass index can trigger early menarche and lead to an onset of other sings of precocious puberty.
Other laboratory studies found out that measuring the serum testosterone can be a useful process during the diagnosis of precocious puberty, due to the fact that early testosterone levels are highest in the morning, while decreasing in the evening, when it comes to affected boys. Naturally, this kind of measurement is not so productive when girls are concerned.
Yet, finally, keep in mind that health issues such as tumors, especially in cases of girls experiencing an early onset of puberty, should not be neglected as an option. Rather, these causes should be ruled out first, allowing the health experts to move on with the diagnosis, taking the worst case scenarios out of the way.
Ultimately, early puberty can lead to various behavioral, emotional, physical and other types of problems, making it hard for the affected individuals to live through this part of their lives. Early sexual experiences, proneness to adult-like behavior and sexual abuse, all are potential dangers that these children face. Yet, if they manage to go through precocious puberty without any consequences, these changes are bound to get balanced on their own, before they reach full adulthood.
All in all, precocious puberty is an expression standing for the appearance of puberty in children, before its normal time. This can take place due to various reasons, most of which are hormonal. Nevertheless, it is important to have the problems behind early puberty diagnosed and treated, allowing children to develop in a healthy and normal manner.
Thus, if you notice any of the signs of early puberty in your child, seek medical opinion on the matter.