Medical Q&As

Precocious puberty - explain?

My 4-yr-old child has been diagnosed with precocious puberty. Could you tell me more about this condition?

Precocious puberty means an abnormally early onset of puberty. Puberty is considered to be early if it occurs before the age of 8 in girls and before the age of 9 in boys. Glands that secrete growth and sex hormones begin to function abnormally early in life resulting in this condition. Most cases of precocious puberty happen for no known reason and this is the commonest scenario we encounter in girls. This is referred to as “idiopathic precocious puberty”. A minority of cases can be due to other conditions. Children who begin puberty early should have a full evaluation by their paediatrician and will often need to see a paediatric endocrinologist. The initial assessment focuses on whether there is an underlying cause or whether it is idiopathic. A prompt evaluation is necessary, because early puberty can lead to short stature in adults. However, not all children with precocious puberty require treatment, especially if their bone age is not very advanced and they have a normal rate of growth. They will require frequent visits to their doctor to monitor their growth and development and to see if treatment is required at a later time. For children with idiopathic precocious puberty, hormone treatments are given that block the effect of the hormones that initiate puberty. Treatment is usually continued until the age of 11 or 12 in girls and 12 or 13 in boys, at which time they are allowed to enter puberty.