Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH)


Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is an inherited condition that affects the body's adrenal glands, which are the cone-shaped organs that sit on top of the kidneys. In a person with CAH, the adrenal glands are very large and are unable to produce certain chemicals, including cortisol, a chemical that helps protect the body during stress or illness and helps the body regulate the amount of sugar in the blood. Left untreated, the adrenal glands produce too much of chemicals called androgen, which produce male sex traits. The signs of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) vary from person to person and by the form of CAH. There are three main forms of CAH: the “salt-wasting form," the “simple virilizing form," and non-classic CAH. Salt-wasting classic CAH accounts for about 75% of classic CAH cases. This is the most severe form. The simple virilizing type of classic CAH accounts for about 25% of classic CAH cases. This form is less severe than salt-wasting CAH, but more severe than non-classic CAH. Signs of simple virilizing and salt wasting CAH begin before birth. These signs differ between males and females. Early detection and treatment can help children with CAH to have healthy development.

For more information about congenital adrenal hyperplasia, see the Parent Handbook: Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia in the Newborn (PDF: 16 pages/604KB). Visit Board Certified Endocrine Providers (PDF: 2 pages/214KB) for a listing of medical specialists and clinic contact information.