Imagine a one-year-old with fully developed sexual organs of a grown man.
A super speciality hospital in Delhi is currently treating Vaibhav (name changed on parents’ request), who has been diagnosed with a rare condition called precocious or early puberty.
The toddler’s parents noticed disturbing physical changes when Vaibhav was six months old. Not only was he taller than other children his age, his genitals too had started growing abnormally.
“We thought maybe he was just a big baby, so we did not take him to the doctor. But by the time he was one, it was apparent there was something wrong. My mother-in-law, who has taken care of several children in the family, also said that his growth seemed unnatural. That is when we took him to the doctor,” said his mother.
Vaibhav was taken to a doctor when he was 18 months old. By then, he was 95cm tall, 10-15cm taller than children his age, and had already started getting facial and body hair. His voice had also started breaking, and he had fully developed sexual organs.
“His testosterone levels were exceptionally high, as high as that of a 25-year-old, because of which he had started experiencing physical changes. Since he was so young, he was not able to understand what was happening. He would experience sexual urges too,” said Dr Vaishakhi Rustagi, the consulting paediatric endocrinologist at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, who is treating Vaibhav.
Tests revealed that his testosterone levels were 500-600 nanogram per deciliter (ng/dl). A one-year-old baby’s testosterone level is usually 20 ng/dl.
Precocious puberty is a very rare condition, especially at such a young age. According to Dr Rustagi, only one in 100,000 have this condition, with the incidence increasing to one to two in 100,000 in boys aged eight to 10.
“It is a rare case that happens once in 10 odd years. Precocious puberty is traumatic for a child of his age. The baby can’t express his feelings or understand what his happening to him, while his parents are left confused,” said Dr Rustagi.
Further tests revealed that there was no underlying cause for the increased levels of hormones and the doctors put him on hormone therapy. He needs to take injections that help in blocking the effect of the hormones once a month. Later, the dose will be reduced to once in three months till he is 10-11 years old and is ready to accept the changes in his body.
“If such children are not treated, they will become violent. The physical changes will not be suitable for their age. They will also stop growing after a few years and remain about 3-4ft tall,” Rustagi said.
Vaibhav’s parents spend Rs 11,000 a month on the medication as the insurance company has rejected their claims.