Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a disorder that affects the development of your child’s adrenal glands. Congenital means “born with,” so this condition means a person is born with an imbalance of certain hormones. These imbalances can cause problems with physical appearance and function over time. CAH most commonly affects girls and women, but boys and men can also have it.

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia: A Handbook for Parents

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What is congenital adrenal hyperplasia?

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a genetic disorder. It’s caused by a defect in the gene that makes the enzyme 21-hydroxylase, which regulates the production of steroid hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone.

The condition affects both boys and girls and can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • An enlarged penis or clitoris at birth; is called ambiguous genitalia.
  • Excess body hair growth (hirsutism).
  • Acne that gets worse before menstrual periods start

How common is CAH?

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a rare condition that affects about 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 15,000 people. It is more common in some ethnic groups and among females. The exact cause of CAH is unknown, but it can be passed down from parents who have the gene for CAH themselves or were born with it themselves.

What are the symptoms of CAH in girls?

CAH can cause a variety of symptoms in girls. The most common include:

  • Tallness may be excessive for the child’s age and bone age (the rate at which bones grow). Children with CAH are often taller than other kids their age. They have an increased risk of fractures, scoliosis (curvature of the spine), or spinal stenosis (narrowing of spaces between vertebrae).
  • Excess body hair on the face, arms, legs, and buttocks; is due to high levels of male hormones during puberty. Girls with CAH may experience early puberty or delayed puberty as well
  • Problems with menstrual cycles, including irregular periods or lack thereof

Also read How do I get rid of ovarian cysts and irregular periods?

Can you treat CAH?

You can’t cure CAH, but some medications can help control symptoms. These must be taken daily for life and may cause side effects such as weight gain, headaches, and mood changes. The cost of these medications can also be quite high.

Why do most girls with CAH need to take medicine every day for life?

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is a genetic disorder. It’s caused by a mutation in a gene that’s passed from mother to child. This means that if you have CAH, your child will also have it–unless they inherit your healthy version of the gene from his father’s side instead.

CAH isn’t contagious and doesn’t affect how long you’ll live; it just makes life more difficult for people who have it because their bodies can’t make enough cortisol or aldosterone on their own. But with proper care, people with CAH can lead healthy lives.

Can I use other forms of birth control besides a ring or patch if I have CAH?

If you’re considering using other forms of birth control, there are some things to consider. The ring or patch can be a good choice for CAH-affected women because they offer high effectiveness and low side effects. However, if you want to use another form of birth control because it’s more convenient or cheaper than the ring or patch (which are expensive), then make sure that it doesn’t contain estrogen. Estrogen can cause an increase in blood pressure and may not be safe for people with CAH who already have high blood pressure.

  • The condom (or male condom) is a latex sheath worn over the erect penis during intercourse; it prevents sperm from entering your partner’s body by stopping them from mixing with vaginal secretions before ejaculation occurs. Although condoms allow some sperms through their pores, they are generally effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly every time you have sex–but remember that they only protect against STIs if they don’t break during intercourse! Other forms of birth control include:

Can I have children if I have CAH?

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is the most common cause of female infertility. Women with CAH may have difficulty getting pregnant, and those who do become pregnant are at risk of having too many babies (polyhydramnios) and premature birth.

If you have CAH, your doctor will recommend seeing an endocrinologist (a doctor specializing in hormones). They can help determine whether you have any problems with fertility and then work with you to find solutions. The treatments include:

  • Hormone therapy uses hormones such as cortisol or prednisone to replace those your body isn’t producing. These medications must be taken throughout pregnancy so that both mom and baby get enough vital nutrients from their body’s natural production system.* Medication: Some women choose not to undergo surgery for various reasons; one option is taking oral contraceptives every day before trying again with another pregnancy attempt.”

What are the risks of traveling by air or being in an emergency room with my child if they have CAH?

Adrenal crisis is a life-threatening condition caused by an acute drop in blood pressure due to severe dehydration or low salt levels. This can occur if your child’s body does not have enough cortisol (a hormone made by the adrenal glands) because of CAH. If your child has CAH, it is important that you know about the adrenal crisis and how to prevent it.

If your child has CAH and they are traveling by plane or being transported by ambulance or emergency room personnel:

  • Inform them of the diagnosis before travel, so they know what is going on with their body
  • Make sure they carry an ID card with information about CAH that includes any medications they may be taking, as well as emergency contact numbers for parents/guardians
  • Provide written instructions regarding food choices during flights (avoid high-fat meals) and airport security screening procedures for pat-downs/metal detectors

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) can be managed with proper care and preventative steps.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a genetic condition that can be managed with proper care and preventative steps.

It can be treated with hormone therapy but is not curable.

You should not worry about catching it from others or passing it on to your children if you have CAH.


If you have a child with CAH, it’s important to understand the condition and how it affects your child. The more you know about CAH and how it can be managed, the better equipped you will be to care for your child and help her lead a healthy life.