If your child shows signs of central precocious puberty (CPP), getting the right care is essential.
CPP is when puberty starts very early. It can lead to physical and emotional problems for your child. Your care team will figure out how to slow down or stop the process so that your child can have normal physical, social, and psychological growth.
The exact cause of early puberty isn’t always known. It normally starts when the brain makes a hormone known as GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone). It tells the pituitary gland to make the sex hormones associated with puberty. In some cases, another condition, like a tumor, an infection, or trauma, causes CPP.
Your pediatrician can help sort out the possibilities. They’ll often start with a physical exam to figure out if there are signs of early puberty. A thorough look at your child's health history and family health history will happen, too.
That may lead to other tests, which can include blood tests, X-rays, and CT scans. These can help your doctor find out if another problem is causing your child’s CPP.
Once the initial tests are done, you and your child's doctor can discuss who else needs to be added to your team.
How hormones affect children is the work of a specialist called a pediatric endocrinologist.
Your child's endocrine system makes and releases hormones that regulate a bunch of things, including sexual development, reproduction, and growth. When bones grow too quickly, kids often stop growing sooner. So kids with CPP can end up being shorter than average as adults. One of your care team's goals is to get their adult height closer to what’s expected.
A pediatric endocrinologist will look at how your child's body makes hormones and come up with a plan to stop -- and perhaps even reverse -- the premature growth that’s part of CPP.
Most kids can be treated with medication. The endocrinologist will help decide what type of medicine they should take.
The treatment usually involves regular injections of medicine that stops growth to bring your child more in line with others of the same age. If that's the course of action your care team chooses, when other kids your child's age begin to go through puberty, the injections can stop. About 16 months later, puberty will kick in again.
If you have a girl with CPP, your team might also include a pediatric gynecologist.
Kids with CPP face challenges from the pressures that come with looking different than their peers. They can be self-conscious about the changes in their bodies. That can raise the chances of depression and substance abuse.
They can be unsure of how to handle the unfair expectations that others put on them simply because they look older or bigger. Girls especially may have a high chance of problems. They might also get anxiety or eating disorders.
Adding a counselor to your child's CPP care team can benefit the whole family.