Precocious puberty means that a child has signs of puberty at an earlier age than usual. Girls with early puberty may have breast development before age 8. Or they may have menstrual periods before age 10. Boys can have beard growth and voice changes before age 10.
During puberty, both boys and girls have a rapid growth spurt. That growth usually ends when puberty ends. In precocious puberty, children start to grow too soon. They also stop growing too early, before they reach a normal adult height. With treatment, puberty is delayed and children have a longer period for growth.
Some girls and boys have early growth of pubic or underarm hair. This is called "partial" precocious puberty. This does not always mean that they have "true" precocious puberty. If your child has signs of early puberty, your doctor will probably do tests. If tests show partial precocious puberty, treatment usually is not needed. Your child will go through puberty at the usual age, and growth will be normal.
In most cases, the cause of early puberty is not known. Some children who have it need to take hormone treatment. Others don't need treatment. Hormone treatment stops early puberty and slows rapid growth.
Treatment, especially when given early, will help your child reach a normal adult height. Your child may still have some signs of puberty. But these changes usually stop after a couple months of treatment. For girls, these changes may include mood changes, acne, an increase in breast size, and the start of their periods. Boys may have an increase in pubic hair and acne.
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of: March 27, 2018
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
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