WellSpan Home

Health Library

Health Library

Delayed Puberty

What is delayed puberty?

Puberty that happens late is called delayed puberty. This means a child's physical signs of sexual maturity don’t appear by age 13 in girls or age 14 in boys. This includes breast growth, pubic hair, and voice changes. These are known as secondary sexual characteristics.

What causes delayed puberty?

Delayed puberty most often has no known cause. In some cases, it may run in families. In other cases, it may be caused by any of these:

  • Chromosomal problems
  • Genetic disorder
  • Chronic illness
  • Tumors of the pituitary gland or hypothalamus
  • Underactive pituitary gland (hypopituitarism)
  • Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism)
  • Abnormal development of the reproductive system
  • Inability of the body to use androgen hormones (complete androgen insensitivity syndrome)
  • Severe lack of eating (anorexia)

Who is at risk for delayed puberty?

A child is at risk for delayed puberty if he or she has any of these:

  • Parents or siblings with delayed puberty
  • Chronic medical conditions
  • Congenital syndrome
  • An eating disorder

What are the symptom of delayed puberty?

The symptoms are a lack of secondary sexual characteristics.

Common signs in girls can include:

  • No breast growth by age 12
  • More than 5 years between first breast growth and first menstrual period
  • No menstrual period by age 15

Common signs in boys can include:

  • No testicular enlargement by age 14
  • No pubic hair by age 15
  • More than 5 years to complete adult genital growth

The signs of delayed puberty can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is delayed puberty diagnosed?

In addition to a complete health history and physical exam, diagnosis of delayed puberty may include:

  • Blood tests. These are done to check hormone levels, look for chromosomal problems, and check for chronic disorders that may delay puberty. These may include diabetes or anemia.
  • X-ray. This test uses a small amount of radiation to make images of tissues inside the body. An X-ray may be done of the left hand and wrist. This can estimate your child's bone age. With precocious puberty, bone age is often older than calendar age.
  • CT scan. This test uses a series of X-rays and a computer to make detailed images of the body. A CT scan can show bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than regular X-rays.
  • MRI. This test uses a large magnets and a computer to make detailed images of tissues in the body.

How is delayed puberty treated?

Your child's healthcare provider will consider his or her age, overall health, and other factors when advising treatment.

Treatment for delayed puberty depends on the cause of the problem. In many cases, when the cause is treated, puberty proceeds normally. If the delayed puberty is inherited, no treatment is usually needed. In some cases, treatment may be done with hormone therapy. This helps to cause secondary sexual characteristics to occur. In other cases, surgery may be done to correct a physical problem.

What are possible complications of delayed puberty?

Delayed puberty can cause embarrassment and stress for adolescents.

How to manage delayed puberty

Most adolescents with delayed puberty will in time develop normally and not have ongoing problems. Some causes will need treatment with hormones. Emotional support can help adolescents in dealing with their delayed puberty.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call your child’s healthcare provider if your child shows signs of delayed puberty.

Key points about delayed puberty

  • Puberty that happens late is called delayed puberty. This means a child's physical signs of sexual maturity don’t appear by age 13 in girls or age 14 in boys.
  • This includes breast growth, pubic hair, and voice changes. These are known as secondary sexual characteristics.
  • Delayed puberty may run in families.
  • Treatment depends on the cause of the problem. In many cases, when the cause is treated, puberty proceeds normally.
  • Delayed puberty can cause embarrassment and stress for adolescents. Emotional support can help adolescents in dealing with their delayed puberty.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.
Delayed Puberty - WellSpan Health

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Turley, Ray, BSN, MSN
Last Review Date: 2015-09-09T00:00:00
Last Modified Date: 2015-12-16T00:00:00
Published Date: 2015-12-16T00:00:00
Last Review Date: 2007-03-30T00:00:00
© 2016 WellSpan Health. All Rights Reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

I would like to:

Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×