What Is Early Puberty?
Puberty starts on average in girls between ages 8 and13 and in boys between ages 9 and 14.
Doctors diagnose early puberty when this normal process starts early and continues to progress through growth spurts and bone maturation, usually for reasons we don’t understand. Girls who show significant signs of puberty and its progression before age 7 and boys before age 9 are considered precocious. About 1 out of 5,000 children are affected.
There are two types of precocious puberty, central and peripheral.
- Central precocious puberty is the more common type. The process is identical to normal puberty, but happens early. The pituitary gland is prompted to produce hormones, called gonadotropins. These hormones in turn stimulate the testicles or ovaries to make other hormones, testosterone or estrogen. It’s these sex hormones that cause the changes of puberty, like breast development in girls.
- Peripheral precocious puberty or precocious pseudo-puberty is a different condition. It’s also rarer. The hormones estrogen and testosterone trigger the symptoms. But the brain and pituitary gland are not involved. It’s usually a local problem with the ovaries, testicles, adrenal gland, or a severely underactive thyroid gland.