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Alternative namesPubertas praecox
Precocious puberty is premature development of body characteristics that normally occur during puberty. (Puberty is the period in life when the body changes rapidly and develops reproductive capability). Puberty normally occurs between 13 and 15 years old in boys, and between 9 and 16 years old in girls.
In girls, precocious puberty is when any of the following develop before 8 years of age:
Some evidence suggests that it may be normal if these changes occur as early as 7 years in Caucasian girls and 6 years in African American girls.
In boys, precocious puberty is when any of the following develop before 9 years of age:
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The main causes are structural abnormalities in the brain and hormone-secreting tumors.
Signs and tests
Blood hormone levels, computerized brain scans, and abdominal scans are often used to diagnose the problem.
Medications can temporarily surpress sexual hormone secretion. Some tumors require surgical removal.
Children of both sexes with early sexual development are more likely to have psycho-social problems. Children and adolescents generally want to be the same as their peers, and early sexual development can make them appear "different". This can result in self-esteem problems, depression, acting out at school and home, and alcohol and illegal substance abuse.
Calling your health care provider
See your health care provider if:
Update Date: 11/23/2003John Goldenring, M.D., MPH, Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital, San Diego, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT