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Precocious puberty

Pubertas praecox

Puberty is the time during which a person's sexual and physical characteristics mature. Precocious puberty is when these body changes happen earlier than normal.

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Endocrine glands
Male and female reproductive systems

Causes

Puberty usually begins between ages 8 and 14 for girls and ages 9 and 16 for boys.

The exact age a child enters puberty depends on a number of factors, including family history, nutrition, and sex.

Most often there is no clear cause for precocious puberty. Some cases are due to changes in the brain, genetic problems, or certain tumors that release hormones. These conditions include:

Symptoms

In girls, precocious puberty is when any of the following develop before age 8:

In boys, precocious puberty is when any of the following develop before age 9:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam to check for signs of precocious puberty.

Tests that may be ordered include:

Treatment

Depending on the cause, treatment for precocious puberty may include:

Children with early sexual development may have psychological and social problems. Children and adolescents want to be the same as their peers. Early sexual development can make them appear different. Parents can support their child by explaining the condition and how the doctor plans to treat it. Talking to a mental health worker or counselor may also help.

Possible Complications

Children who go through puberty too early may not reach their full height because growth stops too early.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

See your child's provider if:

Prevention

Certain medicines that are prescribed as well as certain supplements may contain hormones and should be avoided.

Your child should maintain a healthy weight.

References

Garibaldi LR, Chemaitilly W. Disorders of pubertal development. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 578.

Haddad NG, Eugster EA. Precocious puberty. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 121.

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Review Date: 8/7/2019  

Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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