Most boys between 10 and 14 years old start noticing some changes in their bodies that signify sexual advancements or maturity. These changes are referred to as puberty. They include:
- Enlargement of the testes and penis
- Rise in production of testosterone
- Deepening of the voice
- Production of sperm
- Spontaneous erections(hardening of the penis)
- Broadening of the chest
- Development of muscles
However, when the above changes occur before the boy is nine years old, that is what is referred to as precocious puberty. It is a rare condition. Puberty is activated by the Gonadotropin releasing hormone(GnRH) which is made in the brain. It is this same hormone that causes precocious puberty.
Classes of precocious puberty in boys
This condition as mentioned above occurs when the GnRH hormone “malfunctions.” There are two categories of precocious puberty:
- The gonadotropin(GnRH) dependent
- The gonadotropin(GnRH) independent
Causes of gonadotropin dependent precocious puberty
General causes of this condition are:
- Tumors in the central nervous system such as optic glioma, cramopharyngioma and astrocytoma.
- Central nervous system disorders such as arachnoid cyst, hydrocephalus or cranial radiation.
A tumor in the central nervous system is a less common cause of precocious puberty but cannot be disregarded nonetheless. Tumors such as the hypothalamic hamartomas contain sizable GnRH. They may therefore be viewed as ectopic pulse generators of GnRH which have made their way out of the normal inhibitory influences applied during the prepubertal duration on the GnRH secreting centers. These tumors develop slowly and it’s not easy to notice.
Disorders such as neural defects near the hypothalamus may interfere with the inhibition of the hypothalamic, pituitary and gonadal axis by the central nervous system, causing premature puberty.
Causes of gonadotropin independent precocious puberty
This condition occurs when secondary sex characteristics manifest without GnRH stimulation. It can be as a result of isolated gonadal activation, pituitary or the adrenal gland,causing increased secretion of gonadotropins or steroid hormones. High testosterone levels in males may be as a result of tumors in leydig cells.
Effects of precocious puberty
Depression: Boys with this condition may be subject to ridicule by their ‘normal’ peers, causing them high levels of stress and depression.
Low self esteem: Boys want to be similar to their friends and go through the same processes as them. Being ‘different’ makes them feel embarrassed and have a low opinion of themselves.
Stunted growth: Precocious puberty hinders growth and a boy therefore fails to attain his full height.
Drug and alcohol abuse: Severe stress may lead some to seek solace in drugs or opt to drink their sorrows away.
Aggressiveness and shunning of peers: They may feel too old to hang with boys of their age.
Treatment of Precocious puberty
You should seek medical help immediately in case you are suffering from this condition. Release of sexual hormones can be halted by medications. Surgical methods can also be used to remove some tumors.
Hormonal therapy: This can totally cure precocious puberty in some kids. It nay also reverse the effects.
Parental support: As a parent, you should always comfort your affected son. Make him feel important and normal. Talk to him, advise and encourage him throughout the difficult period. This will help him gain self esteem.