In girls, precocious puberty is when any of the following develop before age 8:
Armpit or pubic hair
Beginning to grow faster
First period (menstruation)
Mature outer genitals
In boys, precocious puberty is when any of the following develop before age 9:
Armpit or pubic hair
Growth of the testes and penis
Facial hair, often first on the upper lip
Voice change (deepening)
Exams and Tests
The doctor will perform a physical exam to check for signs of precocious puberty.
Tests that may be ordered include:
Blood tests to check hormone levels
CT or MRI scan of the brain or of the abdomen to rule out tumors.
Depending on the cause, treatment for precocious puberty may include:
Medications to stop the release of sexual hormones
Surgery to remove a tumor
Children who go through puberty too early may not reach their full height because growth stops too early.
Children with early sexual development may have psychological and social problems. Children and adolescents want to be the same as their peers. Early sexual development can make them appear different. Parents can support their child by explaining the condition and how the doctor plans to treat it.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
See your health care provider if:
Your child shows signs of precocious puberty
Any child with early sexual development appears to be having problems in school or with peers
Garibaldi L, Chemaitilly W. Disorders of pubertal development. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW III, et al., eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 556.
Styne DM, Grumbach MM. Puberty: ontogeny, neuroendocrinology, physiology, and disorders. In: Kronenberg HM, Melmed, S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011: chap 25. 24.
Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.