Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) is a group of inherited disorders that affect the pituitary glands, two walnut-shaped organs located at the base of your kidneys.
In persons with CAH, a certain genetic problem results from an inability of the body’s cells to produce the enzyme 5 alpha reductase. The enzyme is needed for the production of testosterone and adrenalin, which are important hormones that help regulate a variety of physiological processes.
People with CAH have decreased production of testosterone in the testes, adrenal and pituitary glands. In addition, some people may experience a decrease in the level of cortisol in the bloodstream. While this may seem to be a simple result of decreased hormone levels, it is actually a sign of CAH that cannot be ignored. Because CAH can lead to serious health conditions, identifying and treating the underlying condition is essential to preventing long-term damage.
As mentioned, CAH is caused by a lack of enzyme 5 alpha reductase. The disorder is usually associated with adrenal tumors, but it can also be associated with a number of other conditions such as Cushing’s disease, tuberous sclerosis, multiple myeloma, cystic fibrosis, and endometriosis. All of these conditions can lead to adrenal exhaustion.
Patients who have CAH often suffer from symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome. They may also exhibit abnormal behavior patterns such as physical fights, sexual aggression, extreme mood swings, and aggressive behavior.
The symptoms of CAH are often confused with those of postpartum depression, so it is critical for women who may be experiencing them to visit a doctor right away.
People with CAH may also display symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This is because the symptoms of both conditions are thought to occur as a result of a breakdown of normal neurotransmission. When the chemicals responsible for neurotransmission become imbalanced, the brain is unable to send the messages it needs to function properly. Symptoms of ADHD include irritability, lack of concentration, and trouble staying on task and focusing.
People with CAH may also exhibit symptoms of bipolar disorder (manic depressive illness), characterized by episodes of mania and/or depression accompanied by intense irritability, restlessness, and suicidal thoughts. Another condition frequently associated with CAH patients is diabetes insipidus, which causes the heart to pump excessively fast. The symptoms of diabetes insipidus include palpitations and dizziness. Diabetes insipidus may also cause the blood pressure to increase in response to stress.
If you suspect you have CAH or ADHD, your first step is to contact a physician. He or she can perform a complete physical exam, as well as tests to rule out a number of possible medical conditions.
However, most doctors will perform a detailed laboratory examination to confirm any abnormalities in the blood and urine to determine if the levels of testosterone are causing the issues.
In some cases, medication may be prescribed to treat the underlying cause of CAH. If the physician determines that the hormone deficiencies are due to the deficiency of the enzyme 5 alpha reductase, there may be no need for medical treatment.
In other cases, the cause of CAH will not be correctly identified, and surgery may be recommended. When this is the case, doctors can prescribe hormone replacement therapy, which helps to replace the missing testosterone in the body, as well as anti-androgens, which are known to reduce the effects of CAH.
Another option that is often discussed with patients with CAH is the use of drugs such as Finasteride, which has been approved for treating both types. of hyperplasia. This medication is believed to reduce androgen production and also to reduce the symptoms of hyperplasia.
Unfortunately, Finasteride must be taken long-term in order to be effective. Also, Finasteride has some nasty side effects, including liver toxicity, which may lead to potentially serious complications and even death. The FDA has not approved Finasteride for long term use.
Because CAH is usually diagnosed when the patient is young and therefore, many women do not reach adulthood, they may only be able to identify the symptoms later in life. If you believe you are having an irregular menstrual cycle, menopausal symptoms, or low levels of testosterone, you should visit a doctor to get advice about any possible problems with your hormones. Once you are diagnosed with CAH, it is important for you to be aware that there are treatment options available that may address both the symptoms and the underlying causes of the condition.