Precocious puberty, also known as early puberty, is a condition in which a child’s body begins to mature at an abnormally early age (before age 8 in girls or before age 9 in boys).
Puberty is activated by certain genes and hormones. An area of the brain known as the hypothalamus activates gonadotropin-releasing hormone, which signals the pituitary gland (at the base of the brain) to release hormones that stimulate the ovaries in girls or testicles in boys to produce sex hormones.
Both boys and girls may experience acne and both will usually have a growth spurt, bringing them closer to their adult height.
Precocious puberty is more common in girls than in boys and occurs more often in African-Americans than in children of other races. Other risk factors may include:
The changes to your child’s body brought on by precocious puberty may cause him (or her) to feel self-conscious, and may also lead to teasing by peers. Counseling may help your child to work through these issues.
There are two types of precocious puberty:
Central precocious puberty is early onset puberty that usually has no known cause.
Peripheral precocious puberty is early puberty that is caused by a problem with the ovaries, testicles, adrenal glands or pituitary gland.
Although symptoms may vary from child to child, symptoms of precocious puberty may include:
There are several methods used for diagnosing precocious puberty. Your child’s doctor may use a combination of these methods:
In many cases, there is no known cause for precocious puberty. In other cases, it may be caused by:
Treatments for precocious puberty may include:
American Board of Pediatrics/Endocrinology