Early Puberty: Treatment Options
For central precocious puberty, medications called GnRH analogs are the standard treatment. They work by blocking the hormones coming from the pituitary gland that trigger puberty. Most children who need treatment get these medicines as injections or implants.
- Injections are given as monthly shots into muscles or daily shots given just under the skin.
- Implants are tiny tubes -- a little over an inch long -- that are placed under the skin, usually in the upper arm. They gradually release medicine into the body.
- Nasal sprays are given daily.
GnRH analogs work quite well. During the first month of treatment, the signs of puberty might actually become more pronounced. But after that, they will go away. "In girls, the breasts will have shrunk after 6-12 months of treatment," says Kaplowitz. "In some cases, they almost disappear."
Side effects from GnRH analogs are generally mild. They include headaches, menopausal symptoms (like hot flashes), and abscesses at the injection site. There's no evidence that these drugs cause any long-term problems.
Other treatments for central precocious puberty include:
- Progestin. Injections of progestin used to be the standard treatment for central precocious puberty. They are less effective than GnRH analogs.
- Other treatments. Surgery and radiation might be necessary in cases where central precocious puberty has been triggered by a brain tumor. Removing the tumor won't always resolve all the symptoms.
These treatments delay puberty as long as your child takes them. How long does treatment for central precocious puberty last? That depends on the individual child and how well he or she is growing. Some studies have suggested that kids don't benefit from treatment beyond age 11.
Treatment for peripheral precocious puberty is quite different. It depends on the cause. In some cases, surgery might be necessary to remove a tumor or cyst from the ovaries or testicles. Medicines may help in some cases.