17-Hydroxyprogesterone is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, the ovaries, and certain placenta that is necessary for normal development of fetal tissues before birth. It also may be produced in some extra-fetal tissues after puberty. However, most 17-hydroxyprogesterone production occurs as a result of an enzymatic defect of the androgen biosynthetic pathway.
17-Hydroxyprogesterone is a precursor of both cortisol and testosterone, and plays an important role in normal endocrine function. It serves as a chemical messenger in steroid-controlled processes including pregnancy, birth, puberty, stress response, tissue repair and the maintenance of normal sexual function and behaviour.
In some cases, 17-hydroxyprogesterone levels may be elevated in conditions such as adrenal disorders (e.g. congenital adrenal hyperplasia), ovarian tumours, or pregnancy. The high levels of this hormone are associated with the development of precocious puberty in children and precocious sexual development in girls. It may also be produced in excess by the fetus, resulting in an appearance of sexual characteristics before birth (an increased risk for preterm delivery).
17-Hydroxyprogesterone levels are generally measured as part of a biochemical analysis of hormones and may be used to screen for conditions such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia or ovarian tumours. If clinical suspicion arises, the levels may be directly examined under the guidance of a medical professional. Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include steroid therapy to reduce excess production in some cases.
To find out more about blood testing, check our blood tests guide.
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