Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (HCH) is a group of inherited diseases that affect the pituitary gland, two nut-shaped organs located at the base of the kidneys. In people with CAH, certain genetic problems arise from the inability of body cells to produce the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. The enzyme is required for the production of testosterone and adrenaline, important hormones that help regulate various physiological processes.
People with CAH have decreased testosterone production in the testes, adrenal glands, and pituitary gland. In addition, some people may experience decreased levels of cortisol in the bloodstream. While this may seem like a simple result of lowering hormone levels, it is actually a sign of CAH that cannot be ignored. Because CAH can lead to serious illness, identifying and treating the underlying condition is essential to prevent long-term damage.
As already mentioned, CAH is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. The disease 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 depletion of the adrenal glands.
Patients with CAH often suffer from symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome. They may also exhibit abnormal behaviors such as physical fights, sexual aggression, mood swings, and violent behavior. The symptoms of CAH are often confused with those of postpartum depression, so it is imperative for women who may be experiencing them to see a doctor immediately.
People with CAH can also show symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is because the symptoms of both conditions are thought to result from a disruption in normal neurotransmission. When the chemicals responsible for neurotransmission become imbalanced, the brain cannot send the messages it needs to function properly. Symptoms of ADHD include irritability, lack of concentration, and trouble keeping and concentrating.
People with CAH may also exhibit symptoms of bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), characterized by episodes of mania and / or depression accompanied by severe irritability, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Another medical condition often associated with CAH patients is diabetes insipidus, which causes the heart to work too fast. Symptoms of diabetes insipidus include increased heart rate and dizziness. Diabetes insipidus can also cause high blood pressure 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.