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A to Z: Precocious Puberty

May also be called: Early Puberty

Precocious puberty is the early onset of signs of puberty — before age 7 or 8 in girls and age 9 in boys.

More to Know

Puberty, which usually happens during adolescence, is when kids develop physically and emotionally into young men and women. Puberty usually begins, on average, at age 10 for girls and 11 for boys.

If puberty starts early, it can be physically and emotionally difficult for kids and can sometimes be the sign of an underlying health problem. Early sexual development may lead to a child being teased by others his or her age. It can also cause kids to stop growing too soon and end up at a shorter height than they would have otherwise.

Precocious puberty can be caused by infections, injuries, and structural problems in the brain (such as a tumor). It also can be inherited. Most girls with precocious puberty don't have an underlying medical problem — they simply start puberty too early for no known reason. In boys, the condition is less common and more likely to be associated with an underlying medical problem.

Signs of puberty include pubic or underarm hair development, a "mature" body odor, acne, rapid height growth, enlargement of the testicles or penis in boys, and breast development and menstruation in girls.

Treatment for precocious puberty is aimed at halting sexual development by treating any underlying cause or lowering the levels of sex hormones with medications.

Keep in Mind

Kids with precocious puberty can be treated, so it's important to consult your doctor. Doctors can help them preserve their adult height potential and limit the emotional and social difficulties they may face from maturing early.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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