Categories

Hormone Imbalance in Teens: What Parents Should Know

The body goes through changes that are mediated by hormones at a young age. These changes can lead to a hormone imbalance in teens during puberty. When we talk about puberty, we are talking about how the pituitary starts making hormones that cause the ovaries in girls or testes in boys to produce estrogen and testosterone respectively.  

This is a complex process with the interplay of several hormones that we are still discovering.  See below for the hypothalamic pituitary gonadal axis of HPG axis for a description of what happens in the body during central puberty.

What is the timing of normal pubertal timing?

  • Girls 8-13 years old (some girls may start puberty earlier)
  • Boys 9-14 years old

What are the early signs of puberty as defined earlier?

  • Girls - start with breast budding
  • Boys - the doctor may check for testicular enlargement

You may notice body odor or body hair before these signs and these are likely caused by hormones produced by the adrenal glands and not the ovaries or testes. This is called peripheral puberty and not mediated by hormones from the brain.

Hypothalamus

Gonadotropin releasing hormone or GnRH

Pituitary

Luteinizing hormone or LH Follicle stimulating hormone or FSH

Gonad (ovaries or testes)

Girls-estrogen Boys-testosterone

Pubertal signs

First sign of central puberty: Girls-breast budding Boys-testicular enlargement

Some hormone imbalance in teens that may occur during puberty are:

Girls

  • Irregular periods can be normal for the first couple of years
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS: irregular periods and signs of excessive androgen production such as increase hair growth in particular areas of the body such as the above the lip or acne
  • Early or precocious puberty:  Your child may be tall compared to her peers and develop early and faster than peers.  If your child is displaying signs of puberty before the age of 6 years of age then you should seek further medical evaluation

Boys

  • Boys may encounter delayed puberty 
  • Boys may encounter early or precocious puberty.  If displaying signs of early puberty, you should seek medical care right away for further evaluation