Precocious Puberty (Pediatric)

What is precocious puberty?

In precocious puberty, a girl shows signs of early sexual development, with breast growth, the development of public hair, and the onset of menses. This condition also involves a sudden growth of bones and muscles. It can be concerning when girls show signs of early puberty before age 8.

Precocious puberty is sometimes triggered by tumors or growths on the ovaries, adrenal glands, pituitary gland, or brain. It is also linked to central nervous system disorders, a family history of the disease, or rare genetic syndromes.

In many cases, however, physicians can find no apparent cause.

There are two types of precocious puberty:

  • Gonadotropin-dependent (also known as central precocious puberty) is characterized by early secretion of hormones called gonadotropins. This it the most common type found in young girls.
  • Gonadotropin-independent (also known as peripheral precocious puberty) is caused by early secretion of high levels of the sex hormone, estrogen.

What are the symptoms of precocious puberty?

Common signs in girls include:

  • Breast growth
  • Pubic and underarm hair
  • Menstruation
  • Moodiness
  • Growing taller and faster than other classmates

How is precocious puberty diagnosed?

Our specialists in pediatric and adolescent gynecology start with a full health history and then perform a comprehensive physical exam. We may also order the following blood tests may be ordered to measure hormone levels including:

  • Luteinizing hormone (LH)
  • Follicle stimulation hormone (FSH)
  • A form of estrogen called estradiol
  • Thyroid hormones
  • Adrenal gland hormones

The following diagnostic tests may also help in diagnosis:

  • X-ray. This test uses a small amount of radiation to make images of tissues inside the body. An X-ray may be done of the left hand and wrist to estimate your child's bone age. With precocious puberty, bone age is often older than calendar age.
  • Ultrasound (sonography). This imaging test uses sound waves and a computer to create pictures of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. It helps physicians evaluate the uterus and ovaries.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). This test uses a large magnets and a computer to make detailed images of tissues in the body.

How is precocious puberty treated?

Our goal is to stop the onset of early puberty and reverse the rapid onset of sexual development. Treatment options depend on the cause of precocious puberty. In some cases, it can be reversed with medication. Various medications can be used to suppress the pituitary gland from releasing certain hormones or to suppress estrogen production).