What is Precocious Puberty?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Precocious puberty is a condition characterized by an unusually early onset of puberty. As a general rule, precocious puberty is defined as an onset of puberty before age eight in girls, and before age 10 in boys. There are a number of physical and social problems associated with this condition, and as a result, doctors generally try to halt or reverse the process, with the intention of allowing the patient to start puberty at a more natural age.

African American girls are particularly at risk for precocious puberty.
African American girls are particularly at risk for precocious puberty.

There are a variety of causes for precocious puberty, which is known as pubertas praecox among the Latin-minded. Often, there is not an apparent cause, and puberty simply happens. In other cases, brain damage or a malfunction in the brain leads the hypothalamus to send out a message to the body, telling it to start puberty. This condition can also be caused by certain syndromes, tumors, and heredity. Girls are more likely to experience early puberty than boys, and African-Americans are particularly at risk.

As a general rule, precocious puberty is defined as an onset of puberty before age eight in girls, and before age 10 in boys.
As a general rule, precocious puberty is defined as an onset of puberty before age eight in girls, and before age 10 in boys.

The signs of precocious puberty are fairly obvious, as the child will start to develop physical features of adults such as pubic hair, breast tissue, and so forth. The child may also start to experience the emotional disruption associated with puberty, as he or she is flooded with hormones.

Brain damage or a malfunction in the brain leads the hypothalamus to send out a message to the body, telling it to start puberty early.
Brain damage or a malfunction in the brain leads the hypothalamus to send out a message to the body, telling it to start puberty early.

When this condition is suspected, prompt medical attention is needed. After diagnosing the condition with a physical exam and sometimes blood tests to evaluate hormone levels, a doctor will usually try to uncover the root cause of the condition. Treatment for early puberty involves the administration of drugs to halt the process, along with treatment of the underlying cause. Treatment of the cause is especially important in cases caused by tumors and various syndromes.

If left untreated, precocious puberty can result in several problems. In the first place, the child may struggle among his or her peers, as he or she will look markedly different. Behavioral problems are often associated with this condition, since young children are not prepared to deal with the effects of puberty or the taunting of their peers, who often do not have much sympathy for people who look different. Early puberty can also cause a person to grow up to be very short, as the body stops growing at the end of puberty. When puberty's onset is too early, the child has less time to grow.

If left untreated, precocious puberty may cause several problems.
If left untreated, precocious puberty may cause several problems.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon276875

My boyfriend was telling me about his medical history and said that he started precocious puberty at age 8. This resulted in him having to be circumcised at age 8 or 9. Apparently the hormone intervention he was given essential meant that he went through puberty twice - once at the really early age he started and then later again at a more normal age. He said this was really rare but I'm still confused. How is this possible? Could you tell me a bit about it?

Sharon Greene

What foods should parents avoid in order to control precocious puberty?

Angi

my daughter is a patient with precocious puberty i need to know if she is going to be shorter than she is supposed to be or not? she is on medication leprone every 3 months injection.

when does she stop this medication? is she going to be normal, her case was detected when she was 2 years old, please inform me.

anon19688

Fantastic information, just found out my daughter has precocious puberty on tuesday and she has already been sent for further tests. This article was very informative. thank you.

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