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Health Library : Diabetes and Other Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders


Gonadotropin-Independent Precocious Puberty

What are androgen and estrogen?

Androgen is the name for a group of hormones that include androsterone and testosterone, which stimulate the development of male characteristics.

Estrogen is a group of hormones produced by the ovary, placenta, and testes that also stimulate secondary sexual characteristics in males and females. Estrogen plays an important role in a woman's menstrual cycle.

What is gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty?

Early secretion (also called hypersecretion) of high levels of the body's sex hormones, androgen (male sex hormones) and estrogen (female sex hormones), can lead to the early outward appearance of puberty. Sometimes called pseudoprecocious puberty, this form of early puberty is characterized by the development of most secondary sexual characteristics, although the sexual glands remain undeveloped.

What causes gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty?

The production of high levels of sex hormones in the young child forces the onset of puberty characteristics.

What are the symptoms of gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty?

The following are the most common symptoms of gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Although the sexual glands themselves remain immature, hypersecretion of androgen and estrogen cause the development of most other secondary sexual characteristics. Symptoms may include:

  • Girls:
    • Development of breasts
    • Underarm and pubic hair growth
    • Changes in body odor
    • Menstruation
  • Boys:
    • Facial, underarm, and pubic hair growth
    • Lengthening of penis and enlarging of testicles
    • Appearance becomes more masculine
    • Changes in body odor
    • Acne
    • Spontaneous erections

The symptoms of gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty may resemble other problems or medical conditions. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.

How is gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnosis of gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty may include:

  • X-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film. X-ray of the left hand and wrist bone can determine bone age, which is advanced in precocity (exceptionally early or premature development) as compared to chronologic age (age from birth date).
  • Measurement of blood hormone
  • Ultrasound (also called sonography) of the ovaries, testicles, and adrenal glands and pelvis. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function, and to assess blood flow through various vessels.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A diagnostic procedure that uses magnets to produce images of the body's internal structures.

How is gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty treated?

Specific treatment for gonadotropin-independent precocious will be determined by your child's doctor based on:

  • Your child's general health status and medical history
  • Severity of the symptoms
  • Your child's ability to tolerate medical procedures and take prescribed medications
  • Projected development of the condition
  • Your desires regarding treatment

The goal of treatment for the hypersecretion of androgen and estrogen is to stop, and possibly reverse, the onset of early puberty symptoms. Treatment may include the use of certain medications that inhibit the action of the sex hormones. If a tumor is causing the disorder, surgical removal may be necessary.

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