BY SONIKA SINGH
After her swim, Radha was wiping Tanya, her daughter with a soft towel. Suddenly she found some extremely thin wispy strands of almost colorless hair in her armpits. She stood dead in her tracks! “Am I imagining the thin hair or does my five-year-old child has a hair growth in her armpits? How is it even impossible?’’ She muttered to herself. She was rooted to the spot, but then slowly she mustered courage, dressed her daughter, and then sent her out to play.
The next few minutes, she was struck dumb, her heart started racing, and she was petrified.
“Was the armpit hair a forewarning to something more terrible?’’ she mumbled to herself.
“I am not a doctor, my mind is in deep turmoil, and I need to find my answer. What is wrong with my angel ?’’ Radha told herself.
I don’t see anything alarming”, assured the doctor
“But doctor, I can!’’ she interrupted. ‘‘I think I need to show her to some specialist. I had periods when I was not even ten. Is armpit hair growth related to that?’’ she continued nervously. “Could you please suggest a specialist?’’
Dr. Sinha gave the reference of a pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Bhushan. When she met the doctor, he was extremely empathetic and gave her a detailed case study. “Your daughter is a case of precocious puberty which means she may have her menarche at 8 and would only reach the adult height of 4 feet 10 inches. You must keep a close watch on her height. The medication will slow her growth so that her adult height is normal. With proper treatment, the condition can be easily reversed. If treatment is not given, she will start menstruating at 7 or 8.’’
After the first visit, there followed series of hormone tests, ultrasounds, bone age test, and then the MRI. MRI confirmed Tanya had no tumor, which meant she just needed injections to block her puberty. Radha heaved a sigh of relief and then began a stint with injections and medications.
What is Precocious Puberty?
Precocious puberty for a mother means that her girl might have her first menarche (period) at the age of 8 or as early as 3. She would become a fully grown woman physically, but with an emotional and psychological maturity of her chronological age, She could face social ostracism as she would look mature than others in her class. She would withstand physical discomfort and mental stress just to fit in. She would be short and stocky when she attains adulthood.
The boys too can become victims of precocious puberty. Their symptoms include early facial hair, body odour, deepening of voice and enlargement of testicles and penis, and growth spurts. One-year-old boy Rishabh became an unfortunate case of precocious puberty. His testosterone levels were as high as that of a 25-year-old man. He is on injection once a month to block his puberty. It is rarest of rare case, but we as fellow human being sometimes, fail to empathize with such children.
If a person is diagnosed with Cancer, he gets sympathy, if he is diagnosed with AIDS, sometimes receives disdain but when a child is diagnosed with Precocious Puberty, he or she arouses curiosity.
What is the role of a Parent?
The parents of such children are on their toes -finding the right doctor to administer the injection, keeping a check on estragon level in girls and testosterone level in boys, and then trying to camouflage the overt signs of puberty in their kids. The parent faces the daunting task of the acknowledging to himself that his child is not normal but needs to be treated like one. The parent of these kids needs to be with their children to help them in their aggressive outbursts or submissive sobs.
Radha stood like a rock for her daughter. She explained to her daughter that she was slightly different from other girls when she turned 8, and that treatment soon would make her look like others.
The medication reduced the size of breasts and ovaries. Within a year’s time, Tanya starting looking likes kids of her age.
A consequence of medical intervention, rigorous exercise, right diet, and loads of love, Tanya got her menarche at 13. Today she stands tall at 5 feet 6 inches, a well-balanced, sporty kid making her parents proud and her doctor happy at the success of his treatment. Rishabh too would lead a normal life after medical intervention in due course of time. Unfortunately, they are many who become little men and women due to lack of awareness and funds. They deserve more attention, empathy, and acceptance from each one of us.
(This article is a small endeavour to make parents and teachers aware and empathetic towards children with precocious puberty. The names are fictitious. Every year the number of patients is increasing, and there is little awareness. Please read medical articles to understand more about this medical condition.)
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JUNE 3, 2018