Early Puberty in Girls: Symptoms, Causes and the Associated Risk

Research has shown that an increasing number of girls and boys are reaching puberty at an early age, which is having negative impact on their emotional health. Before 1960’s, 11 years was considered to be an average age for the girls to start on their journey of puberty which involved growth of breasts, appearance of pubic hair and menstruation. Recently girls as young as 7-8 years are showing all the signs of puberty, causing dismay and panic in their parents, especially the mothers.

Signs and Symptoms

During puberty there is rapid growth and changes in the body, like skeletal and muscular growth and maturation of reproductive organs in preparation for its ability to reproduce. The signs that give a warning to the parents can be:

  • early-pubertyGrowth of pubic and underarm hair
  • Sudden growth spurt
  • Appearance of acne and pimples
  • Change in body odor
  • Appearance and fullness in breasts
  • Enlarged hips
  • Menarche or appearance of the first menstrual period

Medical and Social Causes

Though there is proof to show that obesity, changing lifestyles, increased consumption of animal products and higher calorie consumption has seen remarkable decline in the age of onset of puberty, there is no dependable evidence to support these theories. Various medical institutions are conducting research and survey regarding the causes behind the age of puberty falling down in girls.

Some of the well known medical causes are:

  • Exposure to xeno-estrogens, or EDC’s (endocrine-disrupting chemicals) from the environment through creams, ointments or medications
  • Trauma to the brain or spinal cord due to injury, radiation or other triggers
  • Abnormal production of hormones by adrenal glands in cases of children suffering from congenital adrenal hyperplasia
  • Hypothyroidism or insufficient hormone production of thyroid glands
  • Growth of tumor in brain, spinal cord, ovaries, adrenal gland or pituitary gland

And the social and lifestyle causes can be:

  • High consumption of dairy products and intake of soft drinks
  • Insufficient vegetables and fruits, and inclusion of high intake of animal protein and meat in diet
  • Increase in the average weight of children, especially in developed countries.

Associated Risks and Disadvantages

Girls at the younger age will not be psychologically ready to handle the roller coaster ride of hormonal, physical and emotional changes that come with puberty. Early onset of puberty has other risks factors like:

  • Increased risk of breast and hormonal cancers
  • Higher chances of being diagnosed with depression, GAD or eating disorder
  • Reduction in eventual adult height
  • Higher risk of sexual abuse
  • Being bullied and teased by peers for physical changes
  • Not being treated according to the chronological age

Medical Intervention Is Possible

Though not many people opt for it, there are treatments available to delay puberty in girls. With the adaptation of GnRH analogs, the signs and symptoms of early puberty are known to completely disappear after a small initial outburst. Doctors do not rush to treat the early signs, as more often they disappear on their own. Treating early puberty involves methods like:

  • GnRH analogs in the form of injections, implants or nasal spray
  • Injection of progestin
  • Surgery or Radiation in cases of brain, or ovarian tumors
  • Change in diet and lifestyle