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Lookup NU author(s): Dr Richard Quinton
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).
Puberty is the period during which we attain adult secondary sexual characteristics and reproductive capability. Its onset depends upon reactivation of pulsative GNRH, secretion from its relative quiescence during childhood, on the background of intact potential for pituitary-gonadal function. This review is intended: to highlight those current practices in diagnosis and management that are evidence based and those that are not; to help clinicians deal with areas of uncertainty with reference to physiologic first principles; by sign-posting relevant data arising from other patient groups with shared issues; to illustrate how recent scientific advances are (or should be) altering clinician perceptions of pubertal delay; and finally, to emphasise that the management of men and women presenting in advanced adult life with absent puberty cannot simply be extrapolated from paediatric practice. There is a broad spectrum of pubertal timing that varies among different populations, separated in time and space. Delayed puberty usually represents an extreme of the normal, a developmental pattern referred to as constitutional delay of growth and puberty (CDGP), but organic defects of the hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal axis predisposing to hypogonadism may not always be initially distinguishable from it. CDGP and organic, or congenital hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism are both significantly more common in boys than girls. Moreover, around 1/3 of adults with organic hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism had evidence of partial puberty at presentation and, confusingly, some 5-10% of these subsequently may exhibit recovery of endogenous gonadotrophin secretion, including men with Kallmann syndrome. However, the distinction is crucial as expectative (`watch-and-wait') management is inappropriate in the context of hypogonadism. The probability of pubertal delay being caused by organic hypogonadism rises exponentially both with increasing age at presentation and the presence of associated ` red flag' clinical features. These ` red flags' comprise findings indicating lack of prior `mini-puberty' (such as cryptorchidism or micropenis), or the presence of non-reproductive congenital defects known to be associated with specific hypogonadal syndromes, e. g. anosmia, deafness, mirror movements, renal agenesis, dental/digital anomalies, clefting or coloboma would be compatible with Kallmann (or perhaps CHARGE) syndrome. In children, interventions (whether in the form or treatment or simple reassurance) have been historically directed at maximising height potential and minimising psychosocial morbidity, though issues of future fertility and bone density potential are now increasingly `in the mix'. Apubertal adults almost invariably harbour organic hypogonadism, requiring sensitive acknowledgement of underlying personal issues and the timely introduction of sex hormone replacement therapy at more physiological doses.
Author(s): Dunkel L, Quinton R
Publication type: Review
Publication status: Published
Journal: European Journal of Endocrinology
Print publication date: 01/06/2014
Online publication date: 17/05/2014
Acceptance date: 14/02/2014
ISSN (print): 0804-4643
ISSN (electronic): 1479-683X
Publisher: BIOSCIENTIFICA LTD