Precocious puberty refers to the appearance of secondary sexual characteristics before age 7 or 8 in girls and before age 9 in boys, without treatment. Paradoxically, it leads to large stature in childhood, but short stature in adulthood. Learn more about the condition, its diagnosis and the different treatment options available.
The following tests help to diagnose precocious puberty:
- Physical examination: by a general practitioner to first assess the stage of development of secondary sex characteristics, the stage of the growth curve and family risk factors.
- Blood tests to measure hormone levels: a GnRH test using a dose of sex steroids to see whether gonadotropin activity is present.
- X-ray of the left wrist: to determine bone age and therefore to confirm the onset of puberty. The secretion of sex steroids accelerates bone maturation and the premature fusion of growth cartilage, which results in small stature.
- Pelvic ultrasound: an examination used only for precocious puberty in girls, pelvic ultrasounds measure the ovaries and the uterus to give an indication of pubertal development. It can also be used to detect tumors or an ovarian cyst, which could be the cause of peripheral precocious puberty.
- Pituitary gland MRI: always done if precocious puberty is confirmed, an MRI of the hypothalamic-pituitary area measures the volume of the pituitary gland. In precocious puberty, the gland is larger and more dome-shaped. The MRI will also confirm whether there are tumors in this area of the brain that could potentially be responsible for the precocious onset of puberty.
7 or 8
the average age of precocious puberty in girls
the average age of precocious puberty in boys.