Non-classic congenital adrenal hyperplasia (NCAH) is a relatively common disorder regardless of ethnicity, but most cases are never diagnosed, especially in males. A baseline 17-hydroxyprogesterone measurement may be used for screening, but 17-hydroxyprogesterone measurement after ACTH stimulation is the gold standard. We advocate a CYP21A2 mutation analysis to verify the diagnosis, for genetic counselling and for better prognostic and treatment guidance. Most patients are diagnosed in adolescence and adult life with hirsutism, acne, a PCOS-like picture and fertility issues. Many men with NCAH never seek medical attention and escape diagnosis. Although treatment is somewhat controversial, an early diagnosis and start of treatment may have positive implications on growth and be relevant for preventing and ameliorating the symptoms and consequences of androgen excess that develop over time, including fertility issues. Long-term treatment with glucocorticoids will improve the androgen symptoms but may result in long-term complications, such as obesity, insulin resistance, hypertension, osteoporosis and fractures. The glucocorticoid doses should be kept low. However, complications seen in NCAH, assumed to be caused by the glucocorticoid treatment, may also be associated with long-term androgen exposure. Oral contraceptive pills are a common treatment option for young females with NCAH. Regular clinical monitoring to improve the clinical outcome is recommended. It is important to acknowledge that glucocorticoid treatment will lead to secondary cortisol insufficiency and the need for stress dosing. Studies focusing on the specific difficulties patients with NCAH face, both those with a late clinical diagnosis and those with a neonatal diagnosis obtained by screening, are warranted.
Anna Nordenström and Henrik Falhammar
Tatja Hirvikoski, Anna Nordenström, Torun Lindholm, Frank Lindblad, E Martin Ritzén and Svetlana Lajic
To investigate the long-term effects of prenatal treatment of congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) with emphasis on behavioural problems and temperament.
A population-based long-term follow-up study of Swedish children at risk for virilising CAH, who had received treatment prenatally with dexamethasone (DEX). The questionnaire-based follow-up was performed when the children had reached school age.
Standardised parent-completed questionnaires were used to evaluate adaptive functioning, behavioural/emotional problems and psychopathology, social anxiety and temperament in DEX-exposed school-aged children (n=26) and matched controls (n=35). In addition, the association between parental questionnaires and children's self-ratings was investigated.
There were no statistically significant differences between DEX-exposed children and controls in measures of psychopathology, behavioural problems and adaptive functioning. In a questionnaire on temperamental traits, DEX-exposed children were described by their parents as being more sociable than controls (P=0.042). The correlation analysis showed only modest parent–child agreement on social anxiety, i.e. the increased social anxiety in children's self-ratings was not confirmed by their parents.
DEX-treated children showed good overall adjustment. The parent–child agreement with respect to social anxiety was modest, highlighting the importance of multiple information sources and assessment methods. The clinical significance of the observed difference in sociability cannot be determined within the frameworks of this study. Additional studies of larger cohorts are essential to make more decisive conclusions on the safety of the treatment. Until then, it is important that parents are thoroughly informed about the benefits and potential risks and uncertainties of this controversial treatment.