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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Precocious Puberty
      Category : Health Centers > Reproductive System

Precocious Puberty

Alternate Names : Sexual Precocity

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Puberty is a time when the body changes and is able to reproduce for the first time. Precocious puberty is a condition in which these changes occur earlier than normal.

What is going on in the body?

Hormones are released during puberty that foster physical growth and sexual development. The primary sexual changes that occur during puberty are the growth and maturation of the ovaries in girls and the growth and maturation of the testicles in boys. The secondary changes include the following:

  • the appearance of pubic and underarm hair, as well as facial hair in boys
  • increase in muscle mass and strength in boys
  • a rapid increase in height and weight
  • widening of the pelvis and breast development in girls
  • Precocious puberty occurs when the sexual hormones are released early. This is known as CPP, or central precocious puberty. With CPP, sexual changes occur in the normal order seen in puberty.

    PPP, or peripheral precocious puberty, occurs when other conditions trigger the early production and release of sexual hormones. With PPP, sexual changes may not occur in the normal order seen in puberty.

    Partial forms of precocious puberty are fairly common. Girls may develop breasts prematurely without other changes. Boys or girls may have sexual hair early, without other changes.

    What are the causes and risks of the condition?

    No underlying cause of precocious puberty can be found in 85% of girls and 40% of boys.

    For the remaining children, causes may include:

  • certain brain infections
  • cranial radiation, where the brain is exposed to X-rays
  • epilepsy, a central nervous system disorder causing seizures
  • fetal alcohol syndrome, which may occur if the mother drinks alcohol during her pregnancy
  • hydrocephalus, a condition in which there is extra spinal fluid in the brain
  • hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland
  • severe head injury
  • tumors of the ovaries, testicles, or other organs
  • structural defects or tumors in the brain
  • Precocious puberty can also be inherited. In a family where one parent carries the gene, there is a 50% percent chance that male infants would be affected. Female infants would have a 50% chance of being a carrier for the gene.

    Estrogen can cause premature sexual changes, like breast development, that can look like precocious puberty. These precocious changes go away after the estrogen exposure is stopped. Estrogens are found in the following:

  • certain meats, like poultry
  • cosmetics
  • hair and body creams
  • oral contraceptives
  • some vitamins


    Next section


    Precocious Puberty: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: John Wegmann, MD
    Reviewer: Barbara Mallari, RN, BSN, PHN
    Date Reviewed: 05/01/01

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