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Precocious puberty

Contents of this page:


Endocrine glands
Endocrine glands
Male and female reproductive systems
Male and female reproductive systems

Alternative Names    Return to top

Pubertas praecox

Definition    Return to top

Precocious puberty is when the body changes that normally occur during puberty happen earlier than normal. Puberty is the time in which sexual and physical characteristics mature.

Causes    Return to top

The exact age a child enters puberty depends on a number of different things, such as a person's genes, nutrition, and gender. The main causes of precocious puberty are structural problems in the brain and tumors that release hormones.

Symptoms    Return to top

In girls, precocious puberty is when any of the following develop age 8:

Some evidence suggests that it may be normal for these changes to occur as early as age 7 in Caucasian girls and age 6 in African-American girls.

In boys, precocious puberty is when any of the following develop before age 9:

Exams and Tests    Return to top

Blood hormone levels, computerized brain scans, and abdominal scans are often used to diagnose the problem.

Treatment    Return to top

Medications can stop the release of sexual hormones. Some tumors need to be removed with surgery.

Possible Complications    Return to top

Children (of both sexes) with early sexual development are more likely to have psychological and social problems. Children and adolescents generally want to be the same as their peers, and early sexual development can make them appear "different." This can result in self-esteem problems, depression, acting out at school and home, and abuse of alcohol and illegal substances.

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

See your health care provider if:

Update Date: 8/15/2007

Updated by: Rachel A. Lewis, MD, FAAP, Columbia University Pediatric Faculty Practice, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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