Health Encyclopedia

Gonadotropin-Independent Precocious Puberty

What is gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty?

Puberty that happens early is called precocious puberty. This means a child's physical signs of sexual maturity develop too soon. This includes breast growth, pubic hair, and voice changes. These are known as secondary sexual characteristics. The sex glands (ovaries and testes) do not mature early. Precocious puberty happens before age 8 in girls, and before age 9 in boys. Gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty is caused by early secretion of high levels of sex hormones. These include the male androgens and female estrogens.

What causes gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty?

The condition may be caused by:

  • Tumors on the ovaries or testes
  • Tumors other places in the body
  • Contact with estrogen in cream, ointment, or spray. For example, if a caregiver is using estrogen cream for menopause.
  • Eating food contaminated with estrogen    

Who is at risk for gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty?

A child is at risk for gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty if he or she has any of these:

  • Tumors on the ovaries or testes
  • Tumors other places in the body
  • Contact with estrogen in cream, ointment, or spray. For example, if a caregiver is using estrogen cream for menopause.
  • Contact with food contaminated with estrogen

What are the symptoms of gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty?

The signs are secondary sexual characteristics that happen early.

Common signs in girls can include:

  • Breast growth
  • Pubic and underarm hair
  • Menstruation
  • Body odor

Common signs in boys can include:

  • Growth of facial, underarm or pubic hair
  • Lengthening of penis
  • Enlargement of one or both testes
  • Body odor
  • Acne on face or body
  • Spontaneous erections
  • Looking more masculine

The signs of gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty diagnosed?

The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she may also ask about your family’s health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests such as:

  • Blood tests. These are done to measure hormone levels.
  • X-ray. This test uses a small amount of radiation to make images of tissues inside the body. An X-ray may be done of the left hand and wrist. This can estimate your child's bone age. With precocious puberty, bone age is often older than calendar age.
  • Ultrasound (sonography). This test uses sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. This may be done to look at the adrenal glands and ovaries or testes. 
  • MRI. This test uses a large magnets and a computer to make detailed images of tissues in the body.

How is gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty treated?

The goal of treatment for is to stop the onset of early puberty signs. In some cases, the signs can be reversed. Treatment may include medicines that block the action of the sex hormones. If a tumor is causing the problem, surgery may be needed to remove the tumor.

What are possible complications of gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty?

Without treatment, a child will not attain his or her full expected height. Also, a young girl may have distress because of early menstruation. If a tumor is the cause of the condition, the tumor may also cause other problems.

Can gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty be prevented?

The condition can’t be prevented, but early diagnosis and treatment may stop it from progressing.

How to manage gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty

A child may have trouble dealing with the body changes. Work with your child's healthcare provider to help manage your child’s condition. This may include joining a support group or talking with a counselor.

When should I call my child's healthcare provider?

Call your child’s healthcare provider if you see sexual signs in a girl before age 8 or in a boy before age 9.

Key points about gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty

  • Puberty that happens early is called precocious puberty. This means a child's physical signs of sexual maturity develop too soon. Precocious puberty happens before age 8 in girls, and before age 9 in boys.
  • Signs can include breast growth, pubic hair, and voice changes. 
  • Gonadotropin-independent precocious puberty is caused by early secretion of high levels of sex hormones. These include the male androgens and female estrogens. The sex glands (ovaries and testes) do not mature early.
  • It may be caused by tumors or growths on the ovaries, testes, or other places in the body. It may also be caused by contact with estrogen cream or ointment.
  • The goal of treatment for is to stop the onset of early puberty signs. In some cases, the signs can be reversed. Treatment may include medicines that block the action of the sex hormones.
  • If a tumor is causing the problem, surgery may be needed to remove the tumor.
  • Without treatment, a child will not attain his or her full expected height.

Next steps

Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s health care provider:
  • Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
  • At the visit, write down the names of new medicines, treatments, or tests, and any new instructions your provider gives you for your child.
  • If your child has a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
  • Know how you can contact your child’s provider after office hours. This is important if your child becomes ill and you have questions or need advice.


Medical Reviewers:

  • Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
  • Freeborn, Donna, PhD, CNM, FNP