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Pediatr Surg Int. 1997 Sep;12(7):511-5.

Outcome of congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

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Children's Hospital, University of Munich, Lindwurmstrasse 4 D-80337 Munich, Germany.


In congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) due to 21-hydroxylase deficiency, affected girls are born with ambiguous genitalia due to increased secretion of androgens in utero by the defective adrenal gland. Even though it is generally accepted that there are differences between male and female brain development, determining factors have been difficult to identify. Girls with CAH have frequently been studied to evaluate the impact of prenatal androgen exposure on psychological, psychosocial, and psychosexual development, and impairments in various areas have been identified. However, there is no comprehensive study available regarding the outcome of this chronic disorder in adult life. We studied the quality of life in women with CAH, with particular emphasis on how they cope with genital malformations, genital operations, and chronic disease as well as lifelong medication. The patients filled out questionnaires covering their physical state, psychological well-being, social relationships, and functional capacity, as well as questionnaires on psychosexual identification and psychosocial integration. The results were evaluated using a computerized statistical program for social studies. Out of a total of 94 patients above 18 years of age, 45 agreed to participate and were compared to 46 healthy, age-matched controls. Age at diagnosis was 2. 31 +/- 1.55 years and 38% suffered from the simple-virilizing, 45% from the salt-wasting, and 17.0% from the late-onset form of CAH. About one-third of patients had Prader stage 3 or 4 genital virilization. While the overall quality of life did not differ significantly, CAH patients were more often single (47.8% vs. 66.7%) and fewer of them had children (22.2% vs. 38.6%) compared to controls. Significant impairments were found in regard to body image and attitudes toward sexuality, but there was no increased homosexual preference. The women were successful in adjusting to illness and receiving social support. It is speculated that improved psychosocial adaptation is part of a coping mechanism that helps to maintain a high level of well-being despite impairment. Coping mechanisms should be identified and strengthened in order to help patients cope with their chronic illness.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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