Gender differentiation disorders are congenital problems that occur rarely. A child suffering from gender differentiation disorders may either have both male and female reproductive organs, a typical sex chromosomes, and improper appearances of genitals. It is impossible to tell or differentiate if the baby born is a girl or a boy who suffers from gender differentiation disorders.
When a child suffers from sex differentiation disorders, the sex chromosomes may be either male or female but the reproductive organs may be of the opposite sex. This gives an unclear picture of both a male and a female.
Types of gender differentiation disorders
Gender differentiation disorders are of different types depending on the cause. The common sex differentiation disorders are given here:
A female with ambiguous or male genitals:
A baby having this type of problem has the female chromosomes (XX) having normal ovaries, and uterus. Genitals may be male and there is not a clear differentiation of clear sex. In such a disorder, the clitoris may be enlarged and give an appearance of a penis and the vagina may be closed. The main cause of this disorder is congenital adrenal hyperplasia. There is a deficiency of the enzyme that helps in the formation of hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone. Due to the deficiency of these two hormones, the body starts producing male sex hormones. If the affected child is female, the high levels of male sex hormones before birth give a male appearance to the genitals. This disorder may cause serious health problems such as kidney problems later in life. So, it should be treated as soon as possible.
Female with male chromosomes
In some female children, there are male chromosomes (XY) but the external genitals have the appearance of female genitals or it is not clear. The uterus may or may not be present. The testicles are absent or are not formed properly. There are different causes of this disorder. The main cause is the androgen insensitivity hormone. The body is not sensitive to androgen and therefore the child has the appearance of a female. The testes remain inside the body and the uterus does not develop.
Mixed genitals and sex organs
This disorder occurs rarely. The child has tissues from both testicles and ovaries. The genitals look like both male or female or a mixture of both. The child will have female chromosomes. The cause for this disorder is unknown. In some cases, the genetic material linked to the Y-chromosome that is replaced on the X-chromosome may be the cause.
Sex chromosome disorder
Some children are born with male or female chromosomes. They only have one X chromosome or may have an extra chromosome. The sex organs are formed normally as male or female. There is abnormal development of sex organs during puberty.
Some female children are born without female reproductive organs such as the cervix, uterus, and upper vagina and some may have underdeveloped organs. In such cases, ovaries and vulva may be present. They may develop pubic hair and breasts. The cause of this condition is unknown. The child with this condition has normal XX chromosomes. The first sign of this condition is that the girl will not have periods and sexual acts will be painful and difficult due to a shorter vagina.
Causes of Gender differentiation disorders
The development of sexual organs takes place early in fetal life. Hormones, chromosomes, and environmental factors influence the development of sexual organs. In some cases, the cause of gender differentiation disorders is not known.
Symptoms of Gender differentiation disorders
The symptoms vary from one disorder to another.
The main symptom of such disorders is that the genitals do not have a clear appearance.
Physical changes may not occur at puberty or there may be unexpected changes such as excessive growth of hair on the body.
Diagnosis of gender differentiation disorders
Gender differentiation disorders can be diagnosed at birth. The baby will have an undescended testis or abnormal genitals. If such signs and symptoms are present, the doctor may recommend other tests to confirm the diagnosis. The tests will also help to diagnose other medical problems that need immediate treatment. Different tests that may be ordered by the doctor are given below:
History of pregnancy and medical history of family
Physical examination of the child
Tests to determine sex chromosomes
In some cases, gender differentiation disorders may not be diagnosed early due to the absence of any signs and symptoms until parents notice any changes at puberty.
Treatment for gender differentiation disorders
Parents should be assured by the doctor that the child can grow up and live as a prominent member of society. The diagnosis of the disorder should be done at an early age to inform the parents and to take the right steps for early treatment.
A team of doctors can manage gender differentiation disorders correctly. CARE Hospitals has a team of well-qualified and experienced doctors including a urologist, psychiatrist, and a pediatric endocrinologist that can work together to help your child by suggesting the right medications, hormone therapy, or surgery. Medications include hormonal drugs that may be given to correct the hormonal imbalance. Surgery is recommended to correct the shape, appearance, and function of genitals.
If you cannot find answers to your queries, please fill out the enquiry form or call the number below. We will contact you shortly