Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
What is congenital adrenal hyperplasia?
A person with congenital adrenal
hyperplasia (or CAH) doesn't make enough cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that
helps your body in times of physical stress. If you have CAH, your adrenal gland
tries to make cortisol, but it can't make enough. CAH is usually diagnosed at
birth or in early childhood.
are the symptoms of CAH?
children with severe CAH might be born with male genitals. All children with
severe CAH have masculine features (such as excess facial hair), grow quickly
but stop growing before they should, have difficulty fighting off even small
infections and may have trouble keeping enough salt in their bodies.
However, people with mild CAH are
sometimes never diagnosed. They may be shorter than either of their parents, yet
still be of normal height. They may have acne and blood pressure problems. When
they get colds and sinus infections they don't get better as quickly as other
people do. Women with mild CAH may have genitals that don't look like other
They may have square
shoulders and narrow hips. Sometimes they have too much hair on their faces.
Women with mild CAH often have irregular periods. They often have trouble
How does my
doctor know I have CAH?
your symptoms and the results of your physical exam, your doctor may order blood
tests to see if you have CAH.
What treatment is
available for CAH?
there is no cure for CAH, but there is treatment. Some people with mild CAH may
not need to take medicine all the time. They may only need to take cortisol when
they are sick. Other people need to take cortisol every day.
If I have CAH, will my children get
If you and your partner have
any form of CAH, your children might also have it. Remember, some people can
have mild CAH and not know it, so you should tell your doctor as soon as you
think you or your partner may be pregnant. A baby can be treated before he or
she is born if the mother takes the medicine. If your baby has CAH, treatment
should begin as soon as you know you are pregnant.