Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or CAH, affects the adrenal glands.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or CAH, affects the adrenal glands.
beginning of content

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia

2-minute read

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is an inherited group of conditions that affect the body's hormone levels. People who have congenital adrenal hyperplasia may experience health problems, but with treatment, many can also enjoy a normal lifestyle.

What is congenital adrenal hyperplasia?

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or CAH, affects the adrenal glands. These glands, which sit above the kidneys, make hormones such as cortisol, aldosterone and androgens, which are male sex hormones. In many cases, a person who has CAH makes too many androgens and not enough cortisol and aldosterone.

CAH can affect the normal growth and development of a child, including normal growth of the genitals.

Types of congenital adrenal hyperplasia

There are two main types of CAH.

  • Classic CAH is the more severe form and is usually noticed during infancy or early childhood.
  • Non-classic CAH is the milder form and is usually noticed in adolescence or early adulthood.

Signs and symptoms of congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Girls with classic CAH can be born with genitals look more male than female. Other signs and symptoms of classic CAH in infants include:

Children and adults with either type of CAH can have:

  • rapid growth and early puberty, followed by shorter than average final height
  • irregular menstrual cycles
  • infertility
  • excessive facial or body hair, and a deep voice in females
  • acne, which can be severe

At any age, people with CAH are vulnerable to an 'adrenal crisis', in which they feel very ill, weak and tired, and start vomiting. They usually occur during times of physical stress.

An adrenal crisis can be prevented with early treatment, so it is important to be able to recognise the signs and see your doctor immediately.

Diagnosing congenital adrenal hyperplasia

If there are signs of possible CAH in your infant or child, your doctor will examine your child and may also order a blood or urine test to check hormone levels.

Living with congenital adrenal hyperplasia

CAH can be managed with medication. This includes taking synthetic cortisol every day to maintain hormones to a normal level.

Where to go for help?

You can read more about genetic disorders and about genetic screening.

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia Support Group Australia provides support and education to people affected by CAH and their families.

The CAH Family Workshop website is aimed at families with a diagnosis of CAH.

Last reviewed: August 2018

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (adrenal insufficiency) | myVMC

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia affects synthesis of adrenal gland hormones including cortisol and sex steroids. It impairs sexual development and fertility.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) - Better Health Channel

CAH is a rare genetic disorder, but it is well understood and treatment is readily available.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

17-Hydroxyprogesterone - Lab Tests Online AU

To detect and monitor treatment for congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH); sometimes to help rule out other conditions.

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

The 50 year old blood test still saving lives | | Know Pathology Know Healthcare

The 50 year old blood test still saving lives Aug 21, 2015 0 Comment Post By:Sophie Herlihy Many people may not be aware that every Australians first encounter with pathology takes place within the first few hours of life

Read more on Know Pathology Know Healthcare website

ACTH - Lab Tests Online AU

Why and when to get tested for ACTH

Read more on Lab Tests Online website

Premature and early menopause - Better Health Channel

The symptoms of premature or early menopause are the same as for menopause at any age.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Hirsutism in women - myDr.com.au

Hirsutism is the problem of having too much hair on the face or body. In women with hirsutism, the hair is course and pigmented and grows in areas where men tend to grow hair.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo