Can a man not hit puberty?

Puberty is a pivotal stage in human development that marks the transition from childhood to adulthood. It involves physical changes such as growth spurts, development of secondary sexual characteristics, and hormonal changes. For most boys, the first signs of puberty begin between the ages of 9 and 14.

When does puberty typically begin for boys?

The onset of puberty varies for each individual but generally occurs for boys between ages 9 and 14. The process begins when the pituitary gland starts producing higher levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). This triggers the production of testosterone, which leads to the physical changes associated with puberty.

What are the stages of puberty for boys?

There are 5 main stages of puberty for boys:

  1. Stage 1 – Testicular and penile growth. The testicles and scrotum begin to get bigger and the skin of the scrotum darkens. The penis also increases in size.
  2. Stage 2 – Pubic hair growth. Hair starts to grow at the base of the penis. Later, hair grows on the scrotum, underarms, and face.
  3. Stage 3 – Further penile growth. The penis continues to grow in length and width. Erections and ejaculation become possible.
  4. Stage 4 – Underarm and pubic hair gets thicker, curlier, and more adult-like. Facial hair develops.
  5. Stage 5 – Growth spurts. Hands, feet, arms, and legs grow rapidly. Facial features take on a more mature look.

The whole process takes 2-5 years on average. The age range reflects differences in individual development. But in very rare cases, puberty may be delayed significantly or not occur at all.

Causes of Delayed or Absent Puberty

There are a number of possible reasons why puberty may be delayed or absent entirely:

Constitutional delay of growth and puberty

This is the most common cause of delayed puberty in adolescent boys. It occurs when puberty starts later than usual for no apparent medical reason. Physical development is simply on the later end of the normal spectrum for unknown reasons. With constitutional delay, puberty and growth eventually initiate spontaneously and progress normally.

Underlying medical condition

Certain chronic diseases can delay the onset of puberty, such as:

  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Thalassemia
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Diabetes mellitus type 1

Poor nutrition and problems absorbing nutrients due to these conditions can disrupt hormonal signals involved in puberty. Treating the underlying condition often allows puberty to get back on track.

Hormonal disorders

Conditions that directly impact hormone levels and signaling pathways canprevent onset of puberty. These include:

  • Kallmann syndrome – disrupted hypothalamic or pituitary signaling
  • Hypergonadotropic hypogonadism – testicular failure
  • Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism – pituitary/hypothalamic failure

With hormonal disorders, hormone replacement therapy is needed to initiate and support pubertal development.

Genetic conditions

Certain genetic syndromes are associated with delayed or absent puberty, such as:

  • Noonan syndrome
  • Prader-Willi syndrome
  • Bardet-Biedl syndrome
  • Myotonic dystrophy

The genes involved regulate growth, weight, sexual development, and other processes. Managing puberty depends on the specific syndrome.

Chromosomal abnormalities

Abnormalities of the sex chromosomes can prevent male sexual maturation. Examples include:

  • Klinefelter syndrome (XXY chromosomes)
  • XX male syndrome

These conditions often require testosterone therapy to induce pubertal changes.

Brain tumors or injury

Tumors in or damage to the hypothalamic-pituitary region of the brain can impair hormones that trigger puberty. Radiation therapy for brain tumors also increases risk.

Chronic illnesses

Severe chronic diseases like kidney failure, sickle cell disease, or HIV/AIDS can sometimes delay puberty. Poor nutrition and increased energy needs deplete the body. Managing the illness is critical.

Eating disorders

Puberty may be disrupted or not progress normally in adolescents with anorexia nervosa. Very low body weight affects hormone production and delays development.

Excessive exercise or training

Extreme athletic training demands during childhood can delay growth and puberty. This is seen in young athletes training over 15 hours a week. Body fat levels drop too low to support puberty.

Environmental exposures

Chemicals like pesticides, lead, and endocrine disruptors may impact hormone levels. More research is needed on environmental exposures.

Stress and emotional deprivation

Extreme physical or emotional stress early in life may delay puberty timing. Children adopted internationally from deprived orphanages seem at higher risk.

Signs of Delayed or Absent Puberty

Delayed or absent puberty may be suspected if the following are not present by age 14:

  • Testicular growth – should be over 2.5 cm long
  • Pubic/underarm hair – should show some coarse, dark hair
  • Penile growth – should be noticing some enlargement
  • Growth spurt – should have had one by this age
  • Voice changes – voice should be starting to deepen

Lack of these physical changes by 14 years old suggests puberty is delayed. If puberty has not progressed at all by age 16, there is a strong likelihood of an underlying problem. Seeing a pediatric endocrinologist for evaluation is recommended.

When to See a Doctor

A pediatrician or pediatric endocrinologist should evaluate any adolescent male who shows no signs of puberty by age 14. Testing of hormone levels gives clues to the cause. Common blood tests include:

  • Testosterone levels – low levels suggest hypogonadism or testicular failure
  • LH and FSH levels – low levels indicate hypogonadotropic hypogonadism
  • Prolactin levels – elevations point to possible pituitary tumor
  • Human growth hormone levels – may be assessed in some cases

Based on test results and exam, appropriate treatment can be determined. This may include hormone therapy, management of chronic illnesses, or correction of hormonal problems. If puberty is simply delayed for no identifiable reason, regular monitoring rather than immediate treatment may be advised.

Can Puberty Be Induced If It Is Delayed or Absent?

If puberty is absent by late adolescence due to an identifiable medical condition, pubertal development can be initiated medically under the care of a pediatric endocrinologist or adolescent medicine specialist. Testosterone is the main medication used to induce puberty in adolescent males.

Testosterone Treatment

Testosterone can be administered via injections, gels/creams, patches, or implantable pellets. Doses start low and are gradually increased over 2-3 years to mimic the tempo of normal puberty. This stimulates development of male secondary sexual characteristics and growth.

Treatment is typically continued until full sexual maturation is reached and growth plates have closed. This therapy allows adolescents to experience the full physical changes of puberty at a developmentally appropriate time among their peers.

Other Supportive Therapies

Other hormones like human growth hormone or aromatase inhibitors may be used as well. Growth hormone helps increase height in cases of growth delay. Aromatase inhibitors can be helpful if gynecomastia develops during testosterone treatment.

Monitoring for side effects and tracking of bone maturation, height, hormones, etc. occurs regularly throughout treatment. Therapy may be adjusted based on this monitoring.

What If Puberty Never Occurs?

For the rare males with absent puberty that is not medically induced, long-term hormone replacement continues throughout adulthood. The regimen mimics the hormones the testes would normally produce. This maintains secondary sexual development, sexual function, bone strength, energy levels, and masculine features.

Without testosterone treatment, males may experience:

  • Incomplete sexual development
  • Reduced facial, body, and sexual hair
  • Soft, high voice
  • Reduced muscle mass and strength
  • Low energy and stamina
  • Depression, low self-esteem
  • Osteoporosis risk later

Ideally, testosterone therapy begins at the typical age of pubertal onset to enable full masculinization. Support from mental health professionals can help with emotional health. Multidisciplinary care addresses all aspects of absent puberty.

Coping with Delayed Puberty

Several tips can help adolescents cope if puberty is delayed:

  • Seek support and understanding from family.
  • Accept that every person develops at their own pace.
  • Avoid comparing yourself to peers.
  • Stay focused on your strengths and interests.
  • Consider counseling if it causes emotional distress.
  • Ask your doctor any questions you have about development.
  • If needed, explain the delay to close friends.
  • Join support groups to connect with others like you.
  • Trust that puberty will happen, even if slower than peers.

Progress may seem slow while waiting for development to begin. But puberty will initiate eventually in the vast majority of delayed cases. Being patient and kind with yourself helps until you reach full maturity.


Puberty is a pivotal stage shaped by intricate biological processes. Delayed or absent puberty in males is uncommon, but can occur for varied reasons. Constitutional delay of growth and puberty makes up most cases. Evaluation by 10-14 years old identifies any underlying health condition requiring treatment. Inducing puberty through hormone therapy ensures proper development within the ideal age window. Regular hormone replacement and emotional support are key for the rare males with permanent lack of puberty. Patience and self-acceptance help adolescents cope with waiting for their maturation, which almost always lies ahead even if slower than their peers.

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