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Treatment and health outcomes in adults with congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Brian WalkerORCiD


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Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a genetic disorder caused by defective steroidogenesis that results in glucocorticoid deficiency; the most common underlying mutation is in the gene that encodes 21-hydroxylase. Life-saving glucocorticoid treatment was introduced in the 1950s, and the number of adult patients is now growing; however, no consensus has been reached on the management of CAH beyond childhood. Adult patients are prescribed a variety of glucocorticoids, including hydrocortisone, prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone and combinations of these drugs taken in either a circadian or reverse circadian regimen. Despite these personalized treatments, biochemical control of CAH is only achieved in approximately one-third of patients. Some patients have a poor health status, with an increased incidence of obesity and osteoporosis, and impaired fertility and quality of life. The majority of poor health outcomes seem to relate to inadequate treatment rather than the genotype of the patient. Patients receiving high doses of glucocorticoids and the more potent synthetic long-acting glucocorticoids are at an increased risk of obesity, insulin resistance and a reduced quality of life. Further research is required to optimize the treatment of adult patients with CAH and improve health outcomes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Han TS, Walker BR, Arlt W, Ross RJ

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Nature Reviews Endocrinology

Year: 2014

Volume: 10

Issue: 2

Pages: 115-124

Print publication date: 01/02/2014

Online publication date: 17/12/2013

Acceptance date: 01/01/1900

ISSN (print): 1759-5029

ISSN (electronic): 1759-5037


DOI: 10.1038/nrendo.2013.239

PubMed id: 24342885