Treatment and health outcomes in adults with congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2014 Feb;10(2):115-24. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2013.239. Epub 2013 Dec 17.


Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is a genetic disorder caused by defective steroidogenesis that results in glucocorticoid deficiency; the most common underlying mutation is in the gene that encodes 21-hydroxylase. Life-saving glucocorticoid treatment was introduced in the 1950s, and the number of adult patients is now growing; however, no consensus has been reached on the management of CAH beyond childhood. Adult patients are prescribed a variety of glucocorticoids, including hydrocortisone, prednisone, prednisolone, dexamethasone and combinations of these drugs taken in either a circadian or reverse circadian regimen. Despite these personalized treatments, biochemical control of CAH is only achieved in approximately one-third of patients. Some patients have a poor health status, with an increased incidence of obesity and osteoporosis, and impaired fertility and quality of life. The majority of poor health outcomes seem to relate to inadequate treatment rather than the genotype of the patient. Patients receiving high doses of glucocorticoids and the more potent synthetic long-acting glucocorticoids are at an increased risk of obesity, insulin resistance and a reduced quality of life. Further research is required to optimize the treatment of adult patients with CAH and improve health outcomes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital / drug therapy*
  • Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital / psychology
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Risk Factors


  • Glucocorticoids