It may seem like kids are growing up faster these days. But central precocious puberty (CPP) is a rare condition. It happens when the body matures sooner -- perhaps years earlier -- than expected.
Puberty usually starts around age 7 1/2 in girls, and around age 9 in boys. In some children, such as those who are African American or Hispanic, normal puberty may happen slightly earlier. But in CPP, signs of puberty, such as budding breasts and body hair, show up much earlier than expected. It's more common for girls.
I was not a happy mom last spring when I got a call from the health clerk at my son's school saying she had found lice on his little first-grade head.
While I know the critters carry no diseases and don't cause any actual harm -- but for itching --they're still gross. "I felt a sort of panic and dread," said another mother in my son's class, whose child also had lice. "I hated the idea they could be anywhere; it's so hard to see them."
Puberty is a big change, even when it happens on schedule, and it can take some getting used to. Early puberty can also cause problems with bone growth. Talk with your child's doctor about what's happening. If it's too soon, you can slow or even reverse the changes in their body.
A part of the brain called the hypothalamus releases a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). GnRH prompts the pituitary gland to release hormones called gonadotropins. They tell the sex organs to make other hormones that cause sexual development.
In central precocious puberty, the hypothalamus releases GnRH at a younger-than-normal age and starts the process. Most of the time, doctors can't pinpoint an exact cause for girls, but researchers have linked childhood obesity to early periods. Boys are more likely to have a specific trigger.
Your child's body might develop earlier than normal because of too many hormones or other chemicals in cosmetics, foods, insecticides, and other things.
Other causes include:
A family history of CPP
A rare gene problem
A noncancerous tumor in the brain or pituitary gland
A brain injury
An infection in the brain, like meningitis
Radiation or chemotherapy for cancer treatment
The signs of CPP are the typical changes you'd expect to see in a maturing preteen or teen.
Hair in underarms and on private parts, and, for boys, on the face
Adult body odor
For example, girls form breasts and start to have vaginal bleeding or their periods. They may be moody.
Boys' voices deepen and their testicles and penis get larger. They can get more aggressive.