Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Precocious Puberty

(Precocious Sexual Development, Premature Puberty)

Definition

Precocious puberty (PP) is when puberty happens before:

  • Age 8 years in girls
  • Age 9 years in boys

Causes  ^

Puberty is a complex process of brain, body, and hormonal growth. In most cases, the cause is not known.

In some cases, PP may be caused by:

Abnormalities in Adrenal Glands or Hypothalamus May Lead to Precocious Puberty
Kidney and adrenal

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Hypothalamus

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Risk Factors  ^

Precocious puberty is more common in girls.

Other things that may raise your child’s risk are:

  • Having a greater body mass index, especially in girls
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Family history—some cases may run in families

Symptoms  ^

Symptoms of PP in girls may include:

  • Breast, pubic hair, and underarm hair growth
  • Menstrual bleeding

Symptoms of PP in boys may include:

  • Growth of penis and testicles
  • Pubic and underarm hair growth

Diagnosis  ^

You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. Your child’s puberty milestones and growth will be checked. Your child may be referred to a doctor who specializes in hormonal, glandular, and metabolic problems.

Blood tests may be done.

Pictures may be taken with:

Treatment  ^

Talk with your child's doctor about the best plan for your child. You child may need:

Medications

Medicine can be used to treat PP depending on the type. They may stop or slow sexual growth. They also halt the rapid bone growth and encourage normal growth.

Psychological Support

PP may cause social problems in some children. Psychological support may be helpful. Talk to your child's doctor about what options are available.

Treatment of Underlying Conditions

If a health problem is the cause of PP, it will be treated.

Surgery

Surgery may be needed if PP is caused by a tumor or other lesions. The procedure will depend on the site and size of the tumor.

Ongoing Monitoring

The doctor will check your child’s height, weight, and sexual growth. This will help to note any changes or show if treatment is working.

Prevention  ^

PP can't be prevented.

RESOURCES:

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
http://www.nichd.nih.gov

Kids Health—Nemours Foundation
http://www.kidshealth.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

About Kid's Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Baron J, Barnes K. Regulation of skeletal growth. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: Annual report of the Division of Intramural Research; 2004.

Blondell RD, Foster MB, Kamlesh CD. Disorders of puberty. Am Fam Physician. 1999;60(1):209-218.

Cesario SK, Hughes LA. Precocious puberty: A comprehensive review of literature. J Ob Gyn Neonatal Nurs. 2007;36(3):263-274.

Himes JH, Obarzanek E, Baranowski T, et al. Early sexual maturation, body composition, and obesity in African-American girls. Obesity Research. 2004;12 Suppl:64S-72S.

Papathanasiou A, Hadjiathanasiou C. Precocious puberty. Ped Endocr Rev. 2006;3:182-187.

Precocious puberty. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114717/Precocious-puberty. Updated December 5, 2017. Accessed July 2, 2018.

Puberty and precocious puberty. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website. Available at: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/puberty/Pages/default.aspx. Updated December 1, 2016. Accessed July 2, 2018.

VN Brito, AC Latronico, Arnhold IJ, Mendonca BB. Update on the etiology, diagnosis and therapeutic management of sexual precocity. Arq Bras Endrocrinol Metab. 2008; 52(1):18-31.

Wang Y. Is obesity associated with early sexual maturation? A comparison of the association in American boys versus girls. Pediatrics. 2002;110(5):903-910.

12/13/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114717/Precocious-puberty: Biro FM, Galvez MP, Greenspan LC, et al. Pubertal assessment method and baseline characteristics in a mixed longitudinal study of girls. Pediatrics. 2010;126(3):e583-e590.

Last reviewed June 2018 by Kari Kassir, MD  Last Updated: 7/2/2018