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Lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Congenital adrenal hyperplasias (CAH) are a group of conditions that affect hormone production and disrupt sexual development and maturation. There are several types of CAH, which are caused by changes in different genes. STAR-related lipoid CAH is the most severe form of CAH and affects the function of the gonads (ovaries in females and testes in males), which are important for sexual development and reproduction. The disorder also affects the adrenal glands, which produce hormones that regulate many essential functions in the body.

People with severe lipoid CAH have female external genitalia, regardless of genetic sex, and typically lose large amounts of sodium in the urine, which can be life-threatening in early infancy. Some individuals develop symptoms at a later age or that are milder than usual; this is known as non-classic lipoid CAH. Treatment is focused on managing the individual's symptoms.

Quick facts about lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia
Genes: STAR
Inheritance: Autosomal Recessive
Relevant resources for lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia

A quick genetics rundown

As humans we have about 23,000 genes. These genes are like tiny instruction manuals that influence our health, growth and development. We inherit half of our genes from our biological mum and the other half from our biological dad. These genes are lined up on structures called chromosomes. Most of us have 23 pairs of chromosomes. The first 22 pairs are called autosomes and for the most part - these are the same among men and women. The 23rd pair determine our sex - two X chromosomes for a female and one X and one Y chromosome for males.

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How is lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia inherited?

lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia is known as an autosomal recessive condition. For autosomal recessive conditions, if a person has a variation in one copy of their gene, they are a carrier. This means that they are healthy because they also have a working copy of the gene. But, they can still pass their non-working copy to their child.

If the other parent also happens to be a carrier of the same gene, there is a 25% (1 in 4) chance that they both pass this gene variation on to their child — and as such, have a child affected by the condition.

If both parents are carriers of lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia, there's a one in four chance that their children could develop symptoms.

What is carrier screening?

Carrier testing is like a checkup for your genes. It tests to see if you carry a gene variation that could cause a serious genetic condition in your child. Eugene offers an inclusive genetic carrier screening panel that includes lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia, but there's a total 301 conditions that can be tested.

Eugene's carrier test is a clinical grade test that can be done from the comfort of your own home — it's just a saliva test. You're also paired with a genetic counsellor who provides mindful support and guidance every step of the way.

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Should parents screen for lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia before or early in pregnancy?

The biggest benefit of screening for lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia is that it can help future parents understand their reproductive risk so they can be ready and empowered to make more informed decisions. If neither partner are carriers, it provides reassurance and peace of mind that the risk of having a child with a genetic condition is low.

Since 90% of children that have a recessive genetic condition like lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia had no previous family history of it, it often feels completely out of the blue for the parents. Getting screened is a way to know this risk in advance, which can help familes manage or even prevent the condition in the first place.