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Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2004 Jul;112(7):343-55.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia - how to improve the transition from adolescence to adult life.

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  • 1Department of Medicine I, Endocrine and Diabetes Unit, Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein/Campus Kiel, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Germany.


Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is caused by a defect in the biosynthesis of cortisol that results in maximal activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis with hyperplasia of the adrenals and hyperandrogenism due to the accumulation of androgen precursors. In the salt-wasting subtype of the disorder, which accounts for appr. 75 % of patients with classical CAH, patients are unable to synthesise sufficient amounts of aldosterone and are prone to life-threatening salt-losing crises, whereas the simple virilising form is predominantly characterized by clitoris hypertrophy and posterior labial fusion. In addition, a non-classical variant can be discerned which in most cases is diagnosed at the time of puberty or early adolescence when hirsutism and menstrual irregularities may occur. The vast majority of CAH patients have 21-hydroxylase deficiency (90 - 95 %). Less common forms, such as 11beta-hydroxylase deficiency, will not be discussed in this review. Unfortunately, a considerable number of CAH patients is lost to regular and competent follow-up once they move out of paediatric care. This is most probably the result of insufficient co-operation between paediatric and adult endocrinologists at the time of transition from adolescence to adulthood. Furthermore, there is a lack of clinical guidance regarding psychosexual development in these patients. In this overview we will focus on special aspects of CAH treatment in adolescence and adulthood, and report on our 10-year experience with a transfer system for endocrine patients from paediatric to internal medical care, known as the "Kieler Modell". For practical purposes, we here provide charts for follow-up of CAH patients that can be adapted for use in any endocrine outpatient clinic.

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