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Open access

Maha Khalil Abass, Aisha Al Shamsi, Iftikhar Jan, Mohammed Suhail Yasin Masalawala, and Asma Deeb

Summary

The most frequent causes of pancreatitis classically have been known to be gallstones or alcohol. However, genetics can also play a key role in predisposing patients to both chronic and acute pancreatitis. The serine protease inhibitor Kazal type 1 (SPINK 1) gene is known to be strongly associated with pancreatitis. Patients with these underlying genetic mutations can have severe diseases with a high morbidity rate and frequent hospitalization. We report an Arab girl who presented with acute pancreatitis at the age of 7 years progressing to recurrent chronic pancreatitis over a few years. She had severe obesity from the age of 4 years and developed type 2 diabetes at the age of 12. She had a normal biliary system anatomy. Genetic analysis showed that she had combined heterozygous mutations in the SPINK1 gene (SPINK1, c.101A>G p.(Asn34Ser) and SPINK1, c.56-37T>C). Her parents were first-degree cousins, but neither had obesity. Mother was detected to have the same mutations. She had type 2 diabetes but never presented with pancreatitis. This case is the first to be reported from the Arab region with these combined mutations leading to recurrent chronic pancreatitis. It illustrates the importance of diagnosing the underlying genetic mutation in the absence of other known causes of pancreatitis. Considering the absence of pancreatitis history in the mother who did not have obesity but harboured the same mutations, we point out that severe obesity might be a triggering factor of pancreatitis in the presence of the mutations in SPINK1 gene in this child. While this is not an assumption from a single patient, we show that not all carriers of this mutation develop the disease even within the same family. Triggering factors like severe obesity might have a role in developing the disease.

Learning points

  • Acute recurrent pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis are uncommon in children but might be underdiagnosed.

  • Biliary tract anomalies and dyslipidaemias are known causative factors for pancreatitis, but pancreatitis can be seen in children with intact biliary system.

  • Genetic diagnosis should be sought in children with pancreatitis in the absence of known underlying predisposing factors.

  • SPINK1 mutations can predispose to an early-onset severe recurrent pancreatitis and acute pancreatitis.

Open access

Nam Quang Tran, Chien Cong Phan, Thao Thi Phuong Doan, and Thang Viet Tran

Summary

Primary adrenal insufficiency is a rare disease and can masquerade as other conditions; therefore, it is sometimes incorrectly diagnosed. Herein, we reported the case of a 39-year-old Vietnamese male with primary adrenal insufficiency due to bilateral adrenal tuberculosis. The patient presented to the emergency room with acute adrenal crisis and a 3-day history of nausea, vomiting, epigastric pain, and diarrhoea with a background of 6 months of fatigue, weight loss, and anorexia. Abdominal CT revealed bilateral adrenal masses. Biochemically, unequivocal low morning plasma cortisol (<83 nmol/L) and high plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone levels were consistent with primary adrenal insufficiency. There was no evidence of malignancy or lymphoma. As the patient was from a tuberculosis-endemic area, extra-adrenal tuberculosis was excluded during the work up. A retroperitoneal laparoscopic left adrenalectomy was performed, and tuberculous adrenalitis was confirmed by the histopathological results. The patient was started on antituberculous therapy, in addition to glucocorticoid replacement. In conclusion, even without evidence of extra-adrenal tuberculosis, a diagnosis of bilateral adrenal tuberculosis is required. A histopathological examination has a significant role along with clinical judgement and hormonal workup in establishing a definitive diagnosis of adrenal tuberculosis without evidence of active extra-adrenal involvement.

Learning points

  • Primary adrenal insufficiency can be misdiagnosed as other mimicking diseases, such as gastrointestinal illness, leading to diagnostic pitfalls.

  • Adrenal insufficiency can be confirmed with significantly low morning plasma cortisol levels of <83 nmol/L without a dynamic short cosyntropin stimulation test.

  • Tuberculous adrenalitis is an uncommon treatable condition; however, it remains an important cause of primary adrenal insufficiency, especially in developing countries. In the absence of extra-adrenal involvement, adrenal biopsy plays a key role in the diagnostic process. Alternatively, adrenalectomy for histopathological purposes should be considered if CT scan-guided fine needle aspiration is infeasible in cases of small adrenal masses.

Open access

Clare E Bonnar, John F Brazil, Julie O Okiro, Louise Giblin, Yvonne Smyth, Paula M O’Shea, and Francis M Finucane

Summary

A 32-year-old Caucasian male presented to the emergency department with a one-day history of acute severe bilateral lower limb weakness, three days after competing in a bodybuilding competition. He consumed large quantities of carbohydrate-rich foods following the competition. His past medical history was significant for anxiety, and family history was non-contributory. Examination was normal except for reduced power and hyporeflexia in both legs, despite his muscular physique. He was noted to have severe hypokalaemia (K+= 1.9 mmol/L). His thyroid function tests were consistent with thyrotoxicosis. He reported taking thyroxine and several other agents to facilitate muscle mass generation before the bodybuilding competition. His presentation was reminiscent of thyrotoxic periodic paralysis, albeit uncommon with Caucasian ethnicity. He also had transient hyperglycaemia at presentation with concomitant hyperinsulinaemia, which could be attributed to the carbohydrate load and may have exacerbated his hypokalaemia through a transcellular shift. Urine toxicology screen subsequently ruled out the use of diuretics but confirmed the presence of a long-acting beta agonist (clenbuterol) which, along with other substances, may have aggravated the hypokalaemia further. After 12 h of i.v. replacement, the potassium level normalised and leg weakness resolved. The patient agreed to stop taking thyroxine and beta agonists and was well during the clinic visit at one month follow-up. This case highlights the potential for thyrotoxicosis factitia to exacerbate hypokalaemia and muscle weakness from other causes in bodybuilders presenting with acute severe weakness, irrespective of ethnicity.

Learning points

  • In patients presenting with muscle weakness and hypokalaemia, early consideration of thyrotoxicosis is essential, even in the absence of a past history of thyroid disease or specific symptoms of thyrotoxicosis, in order to allow prompt initiation of appropriate treatment and to prevent recurrence.

  • Bodybuilders may constitute a uniquely ‘at-risk’ group for thyrotoxic periodic paralysis secondary to thyrotoxicosis factitia, especially where there is concomitant use of beta-adrenergic agonists, even in the absence of diuretic use.

  • Although rare and usually described in patients of Asian or Polynesian ethnicity, this case highlights that thyrotoxic periodic paralysis secondary to thyrotoxicosis factitia can also occur in patients with Caucasian ethnicity.

  • We speculate that consuming large quantities of carbohydrates may induce hyperinsulinaemia, which could theoretically contribute to worse hypokalaemia, though mechanistic studies would be needed to explore this further.

Open access

Aishah Ekhzaimy, Afshan Masood, Seham Alzahrani, Waleed Al-Ghamdi, Daad Alotaibi, and Muhammad Mujammami

Summary

Central diabetes insipidus (CDI) and several endocrine disorders previously classified as idiopathic are now considered to be of an autoimmune etiology. Dermatomyositis (DM), a rare autoimmune condition characterized by inflammatory myopathy and skin rashes, is also known to affect the gastrointestinal, pulmonary, and rarely the cardiac systems and the joints. The association of CDI and DM is extremely rare. After an extensive literature search and to the best of our knowledge this is the first reported case in literature, we report the case of a 36-year-old male with a history of CDI, who presented to the hospital’s endocrine outpatient clinic for evaluation of a 3-week history of progressive facial rash accompanied by weakness and aching of the muscles.

Learning points:

  • Accurate biochemical diagnosis should always be followed by etiological investigation.

  • This clinical entity usually constitutes a therapeutic challenge, often requiring a multidisciplinary approach for optimal outcome.

  • Dermatomyositis is an important differential diagnosis in patients presenting with proximal muscle weakness.

  • Associated autoimmune conditions should be considered while evaluating patients with dermatomyositis.

  • Dermatomyositis can relapse at any stage, even following a very long period of remission.

  • Maintenance immunosuppressive therapy should be carefully considered in these patients.

Open access

Diana Oliveira, Mara Ventura, Miguel Melo, Sandra Paiva, and Francisco Carrilho

Summary

Addison’s disease (AD) is the most common endocrine manifestation of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), but it remains a very rare complication of the syndrome. It is caused by adrenal venous thrombosis and consequent hemorrhagic infarction or by spontaneous (without thrombosis) adrenal hemorrhage, usually occurring after surgery or anticoagulant therapy. We present a clinical case of a 36-year-old female patient with a previous diagnosis of APS. She presented with multiple thrombotic events, including spontaneous abortions. During evaluation by the third episode of abortion, a CT imaging revealed an adrenal hematoma, but the patient was discharged without further investigation. A few weeks later, she presented in the emergency department with manifestations suggestive of adrenal insufficiency. Based on that assumption, she started therapy with glucocorticoids, with significant clinical improvement. After stabilization, additional investigation confirmed AD and excluded other etiologies; she also started mineralocorticoid replacement. This case illustrates a rare complication of APS that, if misdiagnosed, may be life threatening. A high index of suspicion is necessary for its diagnosis, and prompt treatment is crucial to reduce the morbidity and mortality potentially associated.

Learning points:

  • AD is a rare but life-threatening complication of APS.

  • It is important to look for AD in patients with APS and a suggestive clinical scenario.

  • APS must be excluded in patients with primary adrenal insufficiency and adrenal imaging revealing thrombosis/hemorrhage.

  • Glucocorticoid therapy should be promptly initiated when AD is suspected.

  • Mineralocorticoid replacement must be started when there is confirmed aldosterone deficiency.

  • Hypertension is a common feature of APS; in patients with APS and AD, replacement therapy with glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids may jeopardize hypertension management.