Precocious puberty is the unusually early onset of puberty. Typically, this is before:
- Age 8 years in girls
- Age 9 years in boys
Puberty is a complex process of brain, body, and hormonal development. If your child begins puberty at an early age, it may just be a variation in the range of what is considered normal.
In about 25%-75% of affected boys, this condition is due to underlying medical conditions. However, for many girls and some boys there is no known cause.
In rare cases, precocious puberty may be caused by conditions such as:
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- McCune-Albright syndrome
- Tumors or disorders of the testicles, ovaries, or adrenal gland
- hCG-secreting tumors
- Hypothalamic hamartoma (HH)—a rare benign brain tumor near the hypothalamus
- Severe hypothyroidism
- Acute head trauma
- Central nervous system infection
- Radiation treatment
- Taking estrogen in girls
- Taking male sex hormones in boys
Precocious puberty is more common in girls, and in Black or Hispanic populations. Other factors that may increase your child's chance of precocious puberty include:
Symptoms of precocious puberty in girls may include:
- Development of breasts, pubic hair, and underarm hair
- Ovary enlargement
- Cysts on ovaries
- Menstrual bleeding
Symptoms of precocious puberty in boys may include:
- Growth of penis and testicles
- Development of pubic and underarm hair
- Muscle growth
- Voice changes
- Facial hair
Symptoms in both boys and girls include:
- Body odor
- Behavior changes
- Growth spurt
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. An assessment of puberty milestones and growth will be done. Your child may be referred to an endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in hormonal, glandular, and metabolic disorders.
Images may be taken of your child's bodily structures. This can be done with:
Your child's bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
Different medications can be used to treat precocious puberty depending on the type. These medications stop or slow sexual development. They also halt the rapid bone growth and encourage normal growth.
Developing before their peers may cause social challenges in some children. Psychological support may be helpful. Talk to your child's doctor about what options are available.
Treatment of Underlying Conditions
If an underlying condition is the cause of precocious puberty, treatment will involve treating the specific medical problem.
Surgery may be needed if the early puberty is caused by a tumor or other lesions. The procedure will depend on the location and size of the tumor.
The doctor will continue to check your child’s height, weight, and sexual development. This will help to note any changes or show if the treatment has been effective.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 01/2015 -
- Update Date: 05/11/2013 -