© SLACK Incorporated. Adrenarche is when a child’s adrenal cortex starts to secrete adrenal androgen precursors. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is the most abundant product of the adrenal cortex, and is a weak androgen agonist thought to be responsible for the clinical signs of pubarche by conversion to more potent androgens, testosterone, and dihydrotestosterone. DHEA’s extra-adrenal sulfation product, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, is a stable marker for adrenal androgenic activity. Pubarche is the physical manifestation of androgenic hormone production, and includes the development of pubic and axillary hair, adult body odor, and acne. This stage is usually considered premature if it commences before age 8 years in girls or age 9 years in boys. Premature adrenarche is a diagnosis of exclusion, as true centrally mediated precocious puberty, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, exogenous androgen exposure, and androgen-secreting tumors must be ruled out. Premature adrenarche may be associated with a history of an infant who was small for gestational age at birth who then gained weight rapidly thereafter or became obese. In some instances, premature adrenarche may predict functional ovarian hyperandrogenism in adolescence. Management of premature adrenarche is largely aimed at observation, lifestyle adjustments for weight concerns, and monitoring for future possible persistent androgen excess and insulin resistance.
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School of Medicine