Girls enter puberty between the ages of 8-14. Boys enter this stage between the ages of 9-14. Sometimes the physical changes may happen earlier. This is called precocious sexual development or premature puberty.
For girls, this means that before the age of eight they may:
Most of the time (ie, 90%) there is no known cause. With boys, between 25%–75% of these cases are due to an underlying reason.
Some known causes of premature sexual development:
Causes specific to girls:
Factors that increase the risk of precocious puberty include:
One symptom common to both boys and girls is a premature growth spurt in height. Children with this condition may be taller than their peers. As an adult, they may be shorter. The rapid growth also makes their bones stop growing sooner than normal. Other symptoms include:
The doctor will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. An assessment of puberty milestones and growth will be done. An x-ray of the left wrist bone may be taken. This will help to assess if bone growth is normal for your child’s age.
Depending on these results, other tests may be ordered, including:
The treatment depends upon the cause. If the bone age is about the same as their actual age, and there is no known cause, there is no treatment. The child will continue to be monitored.
Hormone suppressors work by halting or slowing sexual development. These medications may include:
Metformin has also been shown to be effective in delaying puberty.
Support may be valuable for children who are more physically mature than their peers.
Hormone-producing tumors or other lesions may cause premature puberty. They are usually removed with a surgery.
The doctor will continue to monitor your child’s height, weight, and sexual development. This will chart the progress. It will also show if any given treatment has been effective.
The American Academy of Family Physicians
American Academy of Pediatrics
The Magic Foundation
About Kids Health
Caring for Kids
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Last reviewed January 2009 by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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