Background: Hereditary angioedema (HAE) is successfully treated with danazol, a therapeutic steroid compound. To investigate hormones of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) and hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis in patients with HAE with and without danazol.
Methods: We included 16 patients with type I HAE, nine patients with type II HAE, and 16 healthy subjects. Serum levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), cortisol, androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), free testosterone, and 17β-oestradiol were measured.
Results: Serum levels of ACTH were markedly decreased in patients with type II HAE compared to the other groups (P < 0.001). Serum cortisol was similar between groups but danazol treatment decreased cortisol levels, particularly in women (P = 0.019). Serum levels of DHEA were significantly decreased in all patients with type I and II HAE compared to controls (P < 0.05), which was only partly dependent on prior danazol therapy as patients without danazol had also decreased serum levels of DHEA (P < 0.05). Furthermore, free testosterone serum levels were markedly increased in patients under danazol (P < 0.005) and the ratio of 17β-oestradiol/free testosterone was significantly decreased in these patients (P < 0.005).
Conclusions: This study demonstrated decreased DHEA in patients with type I and II HAE independent of danazol therapy, which was particularly evident in women. It also demonstrates that danazol induced a marked up-regulation of free testosterone in relation to precursors and downstream 17β-oestradiol. In HAE, there seems to be a primary lack of the adrenal androgen DHEA.