222861 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Precocious Puberty

    (Early Puberty)

    Definition

    Precocious puberty is the unusually early onset of puberty. Typically this is before:
    • Age 7-8 years in girls
    • Age 9 years in boys
    If you think your child is beginning puberty too early, talk to the doctor.

    Causes

    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 rare case, 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
    Abnormalities in Adrenal Glands or Hypothalamus May Lead to Precocious Puberty
    Kidney and adrenal
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
    Hypothalamus
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Risk Factors

    A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition.
    The following factors may increase your risk of a precocious puberty:
    • Gender: female
    • Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic
    • History of radiation therapy to the brain

    Symptoms

    Symptoms of precocious puberty in girls may include:
    • Development of breasts, pubic hair, and underarm hair
    • Increased growth rate
    • 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
    • Increased growth rate
    • Acne

    Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your child's symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Your child may be referred to an endocrinologist, which is a doctor who specializes in hormonal, glandular, and metabolic disorders. Other tests may include:
    • Tanner staging may be used to assess the degree of pubertal development
    • Blood tests (eg, hormone, insulin tests)
    • Brain imaging tests

    Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

    Medications

    Different medications can be used to treat precocious puberty depending on the type. Treating precocious puberty can help children reach their full height potential and avoid the psychological reproductions of puberty-associated physical and hormonal stages occurring too early.

    Treatment of Underlying Conditions

    If an underlying condition is the cause of precocious puberty, treatment will revolve around treating the specific medical problem.

    Prevention

    There is no known way to prevent precocious puberty.

    RESOURCES

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

    Nemours Foundation http://www.kidshealth.org

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Children's Health Canada http://www.childrenshealthcanada.com

    Pediatric Endocrinology and Rheumatology, University of Alberta Stollery Children's Hospital http://www.pediatrics.ualberta.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. Accessed June 27, 2007.

    Kleigman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics .18th ed.Saunders: Philadelphia, PA; 2007.

    Precocious puberty. DynaMed website. Available at: http://dynamed101.ebscohost.com/Detail.aspx?id=114717 . Accessed June 27, 2007.

    Precocious puberty. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website. Available at: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/precocious%5Fpuberty.cfm .

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

    12/13/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : 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):e583-90.

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