Central Precocious Puberty

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Medical Conditions Tied to Early Puberty

Precocious puberty is much more common in girls than in boys. Many girls experience precocious puberty in the absence of any disease or condition. In boys, however, precocious puberty is more likely to be associated with an underlying medical problem. While in many cases the exact cause of precocious puberty cannot be determined, a small number of cases are related to abnormalities of the ovaries or testes, thyroid gland abnormalities or other hormone problems, genetic conditions, tumors or infections of the brain, and injury to the brain.

Definition of central precocious puberty

Precocious puberty is the abnormal onset of puberty earlier than that of the patient's expected norm. As a generalization, this would imply the onset of a constellation of "secondary sex changes" prior to 8 years of age in girls and 9 years of age in boys. In comparison, routinely the onset of physical changes associated with the initiation of puberty is approximately 10 and a half years of age in girls and 11 and a half years of age in boys.

What are the types of precocious puberty?

Precocious puberty is routinely subdivided into three types.

  1. Central precocious puberty is associated with the premature activation and elevation of the cascade primary brain sex hormones necessary to cause the release of elevated secondary sex hormones. These secondary sex hormones are released by the child's gonads (ovaries and testes) as a normal response to the rise in primary sex hormones.
  2. Peripheral precocious puberty is associated with the abnormal rise of hormones released, independent of brain hormones, by the ovaries or testes that cause the development of secondary sex changes. The brain hormones are not elevated.
  3. Benign (non-pathological and non-progressive) development of single secondary sex changes (such as early development of body odor). These sex changes are often considered to be variants of routine sexual development and are not associated with abnormal elevation of the child's sex hormones.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/28/2016

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