Premature Adrenarche in Children

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Overview

Adrenarche is a lot like puberty; it’s characterized by changes in the body as your child enters her teen years. Premature adrenarche is when these changes begin early, before age 8 for girls and age 9 for boys. It’s usually nothing serious, simply your child’s body maturing in its own time.

What’s the difference between puberty and adrenarche?

It may be helpful to think of puberty and adrenarche as separate processes that your child’s body goes through, usually at the same time, but not always.

  • Adrenarche means “the awakening of the adrenal gland.” The adrenal gland is responsible for making hormones including androgens—sex hormones that cause changes such as the development of pubic hair, oily skin, oily hair and body odor. There is one adrenal gland on top of each kidney.
  • Puberty is the name given to the stage of life at which the body becomes capable of sexual reproduction. During puberty, the brain sends signals to glands in the testes for boys and ovaries for girls, spurring the development of sperm, eggs and other secondary sexual characteristics (such as breasts for girls and a deepening voice for boys).

Caring for more than 7,000 patients each year, Boston Children Hospital’s Division of Endocrinology is one of the largest pediatric endocrinology practices in the country. In addition to offering expert consultation, our experienced, multi-disciplinary staff provides specialty care for children and adolescents with a variety of medical problems and issues, including premature adrenarche.

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- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

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