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How Doctors Diagnose and Treat Precocious Puberty

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Central Precocious Puberty: Treatment Considerations

While treatment for central precocious puberty works well, not all kids may need it. How would a doctor decide? Here are some things he or she might consider. 

  • Time since diagnosis. After seeing a child with signs of early puberty, a doctor might wait up to six months before deciding on treatment. In some children with apparent early puberty, the symptoms slow down or stop on their own.
  • Age. The younger the child, the more likely a doctor will suggest treatment. A 7 1/2-year-old girl with signs of early puberty might not need it. She's already close to the normal age of puberty. Treatment could have a bigger benefit for a 5- or 6-year-old.
  • Rate of development. The rate that puberty is progressing is key. If a girl has some breast development, but it's happening slowly, a doctor might recommend holding off. But rapid changes -- even in an older child -- might mean treatment is a good idea.
  • Current height. Without treatment, most kids with central precocious puberty attain an average height as adults, Kaplowitz says. However, some kids are at a higher risk of being short adults -- specifically, kids who are under 6 and kids who are substantially shorter than average when they start having symptoms. For these children, a doctor is likely to recommend treatment.
  • Emotional maturity. This is related to age, but it's a distinct issue. Some kids have a harder time with the physical and emotional changes of puberty. Menstruation can be confusing or even frightening for some very young girls. 

Partnering With Your Child's Doctor

If you think your child is showing signs of early puberty, don't delay in getting help. If you wait too long, it can be harder to control the development, Josefson says. 

There's no surefire formula for deciding when a child needs treatment. Doctors have different approaches. It's important to find a doctor whom you trust. If you're not comfortable with his or her suggestions, get a second opinion, Kaplowitz says. 

Try to guard against your own anxieties -- and separate your child's feelings from your own. While you might be worried about the possible effects of early puberty, your kid might be doing OK. 

If your child is feeling self-conscious about the changes to her body -- or getting teased at school -- a therapist may help. Ask your doctor for a referral to someone who has experience in treating kids with early puberty. 

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