Precocious or Early Puberty

Also known as: Early puberty, accelerated puberty

What is precocious puberty?

Puberty is the beginning of sexual maturation and the ability to reproduce. Precocious puberty is the earlier than normal presence of the signs of puberty (before 8 years of age in girls, and before 9 years in boys).

Signs of early puberty:

  • Development of breasts
  • Increased growth of testes and penis
  • Pubic hair
  • Underarm hair
  • Facial hair (in boys)
  • Body odor
  • Menstrual bleeding
  • Acne
  • Deepening voice in boys
  • Mood swings
  • Increased growth rate.

What causes precocious puberty?

In most cases the cause of precocious puberty is unknown. In others, a family history of precocious puberty, or problems in the body’s hormone producing glands (the pituitary, ovaries, testes or adrenals) cause them to release sex hormones that start the process early. Other causes include:

  • Genetic and medical conditions
  • A variety of brain conditions
  • Obesity
  • Radiation or cancer treatments
  • Social, environmental factors or exposure to hormone pills/ointments.

What are precocious puberty treatment and care options?

The objective of treatment is to enable your child to grow to his/her appropriate normal adult height. In many cases where no cause is found, an injectable medication called Gn-RH analogue therapy which blocks pubertal hormones, may be used to delay puberty. 

How can parents help?

The main thing that parents can do to help their child with precocious puberty is to offer encouragement, reassurance and honesty. If your child has questions about what is happening to them, explain that they are experiencing what all kids experience, but just a little earlier. You can also help be an advocate for your child at school by explaining the situation to teachers, coaches and others. Keep an eye out for warning signs such as teasing or bullying, poor performance at school or loss of interest in activities and respond accordingly. Above all, make sure to prop your child up with positive praise, show support of their interests and speak positively about their appearance.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: February 08, 2024 03:25 PM

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