Precocious Puberty

Precocious Puberty (Early)

Precocious puberty refers to when children begin puberty (sexual development) abnormally early. In a girl, this is generally before age 7-8 and in a boy, this is generally before the age of 9. The age of puberty does vary slightly between different ethnic backgrounds. Most of the time there is no cause for the early puberty, and this is most often seen in girls and less in boys. Rarely a medical condition affecting the brain or gonads (ovaries or testes) can cause the early puberty.

Signs of Early Puberty in Girls:

  • Breast enlargement
  • Rapid growth spurt
  • Vaginal discharge or bleeding

Other Signs to Watch for:

  • Pubic hair growth
  • Underarm hair growth
  • Body odor/acne

These signs are usually related to true puberty but can start on their own as early as age 5-6. This is known as Premature Adrenarche and may not affect the time a girl starts her menses (period).

Signs of Early Puberty in Boys:

  • Enlargement of testicles or penis
  • Pubic or underarm hair
  • Rapid growth spurt
  • Acne/body odor
  • Voice changes (deepening)

Evaluation of Precocious Puberty

A child with signs of early puberty may undergo a blood test to look at hormone levels and a bone age x-ray to look at the maturity of the bones in the hand. If any of these are concerning, a Pediatric Endocrinologist may do further testing to look for Precocious Puberty which may include a Leuprolide Stimulation Test and/or MRI of the brain.

Treatment of Precocious Puberty

If the brain is giving the ovaries or testes a signal to start early puberty then hormone therapy is given to stop the puberty. If there is another cause to the puberty such as a tumor, then that is removed or treated. If left untreated, children with early puberty can grow rapidly at first, but then stop growing at a much younger age when compared with their peers and may end up being shorter than expected.

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