Precocious puberty is puberty that begins earlier than usual. An underlying condition may cause it, but other people experience early puberty for no apparent reason.
The age that puberty starts has steadily decreased over time. It is typically between 8 and 13 years in females and 9 and 14 years in males. Doctors
Even when puberty occurs early without a medical condition, it can cause concern — particularly for transgender and gender nonconforming children.
Read on to learn more about precocious puberty.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
On average, puberty begins earlier than it did a generation or two ago. However, health experts do not consider starting puberty at a slightly early age precocious puberty.
Precocious puberty is a medical diagnosis that means a female starts puberty before the age of 8 years or a male starts puberty before 9 years of age. It may also refer to puberty that occurs on time but happens very rapidly. For example, this can occur when a female develops adult breasts over the course of just a few months.
Precocious puberty may be idiopathic, which means there is no obvious cause. It can also occur when someone has an underlying medical condition.
Precocious puberty falls into
Central precocious puberty
Central precocious puberty (CPP)
In most females, central precocious puberty is idiopathic, meaning there is no obvious cause. However, in males, it more commonly has an underlying cause.
Some potential causes of CPP include:
- tumors affecting the central nervous system
- brain abscesses
- tubercular granuloma
- head injuries
- rare genetic syndromes such as mutations of the KISS1 gene
Peripheral precocious puberty
Peripheral precocious puberty
Some examples of conditions that may cause peripheral precocious puberty include:
- congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Van Wyk and Grumbach syndrome
- tumors of the adrenals, which are glands that produce hormones
- tumors on the gonads, which are sex organs involved in reproduction
- McCune-Albright syndrome
Precocious puberty can cause a person to grow earlier but have overall stunted growth. Without treatment, a child may be shorter than they otherwise would have been.
A limited body of
The condition can distress children, affecting their social relationships. In gender nonconforming children, it may intensify gender dysphoria.
First, a doctor will use
After a doctor determines the stage of puberty, it is important to test for potential medical causes. This
- bloodwork to test hormone levels
- abdominal and pelvic ultrasounds to look for tumors
- MRI scans
No compelling evidence suggests that any specific strategy can prevent precocious puberty, though treatment can usually slow it down or even stop it.
If a pediatrician recommends weight loss, it is important to approach the process carefully and with medical supervision. There is no evidence that putting children on diets will stop puberty, and urging children to lose weight can undermine well-being.
Treatment for precocious puberty
When there is an underlying cause, treatment should also target that cause.
A person should contact a doctor if:
- A child of any age is gender nonconforming or trans and experiences distress about puberty.
- A female under 8 years or a male under 9 years shows any signs of puberty.
- Puberty seems to be progressing much faster than is typical.
- A parent, caregiver, or child has any concerns about puberty.
Precocious puberty can be distressing for children. It may also cause them to end up shorter as adults, and in some cases, it can be a sign of a serious underlying medical condition.
If a child experiences early puberty, very fast puberty, or other signs of atypical development, it is important to consult a doctor.