Heard About Precocious Puberty? Expert Explains

Precocious puberty is a term used for puberty hitting early in children. Here are the symptoms, causes and treatment from an expert. 

Navya Kharbanda
Written by: Navya KharbandaPublished at: Mar 26, 2022Updated at: Mar 26, 2022
Heard About Precocious Puberty? Expert Explains

Do you know what is precocious puberty? Precocious puberty is when a child's body begins changing into that of an adult (puberty) too soon. When puberty begins before age 8 in girls and before age 9 in boys, it is considered precocious puberty. Puberty includes rapid growth of bones and muscles, changes in body shape and size, and development of the body's ability to reproduce.

The cause of precocious puberty often can't be found. Rarely, certain conditions, such as infections, hormone disorders, tumors, brain abnormalities or injuries, may cause precocious puberty. Treatment for precocious puberty typically includes medication to delay further development. Onlymyhealth editorial team talked to Dr. Vivek Singh, Consultant Paediatrics, Meddo Kinder Clinic, Gurugram, to know everything about precocious puberty.

Precocious puberty symptoms

Precocious puberty signs and symptoms include development of the following before age 8 in girls and before age 9 in boys. Here are the main symptoms of precocious puberty

  • Breast growth and first period in girls
  • Enlarged testicles and penis, facial hair and deepening voice in boys
  • Pubic or underarm hair
  • Rapid growth
  • Acne
  • Adult body odor

Causes of precocious puberty

The less common peripheral precocious puberty occurs without the involvement of the hormone in your brain (GnRH) that normally triggers the start of puberty. Instead, the cause is release of estrogen or testosterone into the body because of problems with the ovaries, testicles, adrenal glands or pituitary gland. In both girls and boys, the following may lead to peripheral precocious puberty:

  • A tumor in the adrenal glands or in the pituitary gland that releases estrogen or testosterone
  • McCune-Albright syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects the skin color and bones and causes hormonal problems
  • Exposure to external sources of estrogen or testosterone, such as creams or ointments
  • Ovarian tumor
  • Tumor in the cells that make sperm

Precocious puberty treatment

precocious puberty

Your child's doctor will also need to find out which type of precocious puberty your child has. To do so, he or she will perform a test called a gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) stimulation test. Other tests also are necessary for children with peripheral precocious puberty to find the cause of their condition. X-rays of your child's hand and wrist also are important for diagnosing precocious puberty. These X-rays can help the doctor determine your child's bone age, which shows if the bones are growing too quickly.

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The primary goal of treatment is to enable your child to grow to a normal adult height. Treatment for precocious puberty depends on the cause. However, in some cases, there is no identifiable cause for precocious puberty. In this instance, your child may not need treatment depending on his or her age and how rapidly puberty is progressing. Your child's doctor may want to monitor your child for several months to see how he or she is developing. For example, if a child has a tumor that's producing hormones and causing precocious puberty, puberty usually will stop when the tumor is surgically removed.

If you, your child or other members of your family are having difficulty coping, seek counseling. Psychological counseling can help your family better understand and handle the emotions, issues and challenges that accompany precocious puberty. If you have questions or would like guidance on how to find a qualified counselor, talk with a member of your health care team.