Puberty, the process of physical maturation, varies in timing among children.
Girls typically begin puberty between eight and 13 years, while boys start between nine and 15 years. Pubertal disorders can manifest as either precocious (early) or delayed puberty.
Early puberty can lead to children maturing and stopping growth earlier than peers, potentially resulting in a shorter adult height. It may also pose emotional and social challenges.
Delayed puberty is often a natural variation, where a child is a 'late bloomer', and does not usually require treatment. These children will progress normally through puberty once it begins.
Puberty is initiated by the hypothalamus, which releases
Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH). GnRH stimulates the pituitary gland to
release luteinising hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH),
leading to sex steroid production (oestrogen in females, testosterone in males)
and the physical changes of puberty.
More common in girls, early puberty can be categorised into:
More frequently seen in boys, delayed puberty often reflects familial growth
patterns. However, chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease or kidney
disease can also delay puberty. Appropriate management of these conditions may mitigate
delayed puberty risks.
Physical changes during puberty include:
Early puberty is characterised by the onset of secondary sexual characteristics before age nine in boys and before age eight in girls. Delayed puberty is characterised by the absence of testicular enlargement in boys by age 14 and the absence of breast development in girls by age 13.
Girls experience breast development and menstrual periods, while boys undergo testicular and penile enlargement, facial hair growth and voice deepening during puberty.
Diagnostic tests may include a GnRH stimulation test for hormone levels and a hand X-ray to assess bones maturation.
CPP can be treated with medication to halt pubertal progression. Treatment for PPP varies depending on the cause and may involve medication or surgery, such as in the case of a tumour.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Healthy late bloomers typically
require reassurance and close monitoring. Hormone replacement therapy with
testosterone or oestrogen may be indicated in select cases.
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