Health A to Z


Early or delayed puberty

When a child reaches puberty, their bodies start to change and develop in preparation for adulthood.

Girls developing breasts and beginning menstruation are signs of puberty, while boys growing larger reproductive organs, a deeper voice, and a more muscular build.

While boys enter puberty at an average age of 12, girls often start at age 11, but it’s pretty typical for girls to start going through puberty at any time between the ages of 8 and 13 and guys between the ages of 9 and 14.

Puberty typically does not begin around the average age, but if it starts before the age of eight or has not begun by the time you are fourteen, you should consult your doctor.

Early puberty

Precocious puberty, often known as early puberty, occurs when:

  • Girls show signs of puberty before the age of eight
  • Puberty symptoms in boys appear before the age of nine.

Some girls and boys, although not all, may start to show early signs of puberty. For instance, girls who start their periods before eight may not grow breasts.

If this occurs to your child, visit your doctor.

Early puberty causes

It’s not always obvious why early puberty occurs. It could merely be an inclination that runs in your family.

On occasion, it might be brought on by:

  • An issue with the brain, such as a brain tumor
  • Brain damage brought on by an infection, surgery, or radiotherapy
  • A problem with the thyroid or ovaries
  • A hereditary condition like McCune-Albright syndrome 
Early puberty

Most typically affecting girls, early puberty often has no clear explanation. Boys are less likely to experience it, and it may be more likely to have an underlying issue.

Tests and treatments

The doctor could run the following tests:

  • An analysis of hormone levels in the blood
  • Using a hand X-ray to estimate the adult’s height
  • An MRI or ultrasound scan to look for issues like tumors

Early adolescence can be managed by:

  • Taking care of any underlying causes
  • Taking medications to lower hormone levels and temporarily stop sexual development

Delayed puberty

Delayed puberty is when:

  • By 14 years of age, Boys have no signs of testicular development
  • Girls’ periods have not started by 15 but have developed breasts, or by 13 years of age, they have not begun to develop breasts

Causes resulting in delayed puberty

On occasion, it might be brought on by:

  • A chronic ailment, like renal disease, diabetes, or cystic fibrosis
  • Malnutrition, which may result from an eating disorder or a condition like cystic fibrosis or celiac disease
  • An issue with the thyroid, pituitary, ovaries, or testicles
  • Sex development differences like androgen insensitivity syndrome
  • A hereditary disorder like Kallmann syndrome or Klinefelter syndrome

Tests and treatments 

Some tests include a blood test to evaluate hormone levels, a hand X-ray to estimate height, and an ultrasound or MRI scan to look for abnormalities with glands or organs.

You can treat delayed puberty by:

  • Taking care of any underlying causes
  • Taking a few months’ worths of medication to elevate hormone levels and initiate puberty

Medication-based treatment is typically only advised if the child’s lack of growth leads to issues such as severe distress.

Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD Microbiology
Page last reviewed: 16 JULY 2022