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Gonadotropin-Independent Precocious Puberty

What is gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty?

Gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty is early puberty caused by early secretion of high levels of sex hormones. These hormones include the male androgens and female estrogens. These forms of early puberty result in the development of most secondary sexual characteristics, despite immature sexual glands.

What causes gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty?

The production of high levels of sex hormones in the young child produces the onset of puberty characteristics. This can be due to tumors on the ovaries or testes or elsewhere in the body. In some, exposure to estrogen from creams, ointments, and sprays can cause it. For example, if a child's caretaker is using estrogen cream for menopause symptoms, she may expose the child to the hormones. Exposure to estrogen-contaminated food is also a possible cause.

What are the symptoms of gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty?

Each child may experience symptoms differently. Although the sexual glands themselves remain immature, hypersecretion of androgen or estrogen can cause these symptoms:

  • Girls:

    • Budding or enlargement of one or both breasts

    • Growth of underarm or pubic hair

    • Changes in body odor

    • Menstruation

  • Boys:

    • Growth of facial, underarm or pubic hair

    • Lengthening of penis

    • Enlargement of one or both testes

    • Appearance becomes more masculine

    • Changes in body odor

    • Acne on face or body

    • Spontaneous penile erections

The symptoms of gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty may look like 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 exam, other tests may include:

  • X-ray of the left hand and wrist. This uses a small amount of invisible radiation to create pictures of bones and other tissues. An X-ray image can estimage your child's bone age. With precocious puberty, bone age is often older than calendar age.

  • Measurement of blood hormone levels

  • Ultrasound (also called sonography) of the ovaries, testicles, and adrenal glands. Ultrasound scans 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 detailed images of the body's internal structures.

How is gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty treated?

The goal of treatment for the hypersecretion of androgen or estrogen is to stop, and possibly reverse, the early onset of 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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