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Open access

Mirjam Eiswirth, Ewan Clark and Michael Diamond

Summary

We present the case of an adult female with type 1 diabetes, whose HbA1c was trending at 58 mmol/mol (7.5%) for the past 3 years. In August 2016, she reduced her total daily carbohydrate intake to 30–50 g and adjusted her other macronutrients to compensate for the calorific deficit. Her HbA1c fell to 34 mmol/mol (5.3%) by January 2017 and average daily blood glucose readings decreased significantly from 10.4 to 6.1 mmol/L. Moreover, she observed a marked reduction of average daily glucose variability. Notably, there were no significant episodes of hypo- or hyperglycaemia and her lipid profile remained static. Subjectively, she described an improvement in her quality of life and the dietary transition was extremely well tolerated. We discuss these findings in detail and the potential clinical benefits for patients with type 1 diabetes that can be gained by following a low carbohydrate diet.

Learning points:

  • A low carbohydrate diet was found to substantially reduce HbA1c values and blood glucose (BG) variability, as well as causing a significant reduction in average daily glucose values in a patient with T1DM.

  • Although further research is warranted, low carbohydrate diets in patients with T1DM have the potential to positively impact long-term morbidity and mortality through reduction of BG variability and average daily BG values.

  • The diet was well tolerated and not associated with any adverse effects within this study.

Open access

Ploutarchos Tzoulis, Richard W Corbett, Swarupini Ponnampalam, Elly Baker, Daniel Heaton, Triada Doulgeraki and Justin Stebbing

Summary

Five days following the 3rd cycle of nivolumab, a monoclonal antibody, which acts as immune checkpoint inhibitor against the programmed cell death protein-1, for metastatic lung adenocarcinoma, a 56-year-old woman presented at the hospital critically ill. On admission, she had severe diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), as evidenced by venous glucose of 47 mmol/L, blood ketones of 7.5 mmol/L, pH of 6.95 and bicarbonate of 6.6 mmol/L. She has had no personal or family history of diabetes mellitus (DM), while random venous glucose, measured 1 week prior to hospitalisation, was 6.1 mmol/L. On admission, her HbA1c was 8.2% and anti-GAD antibodies were 12 kIU/L (0–5 kU/L), while islet cell antibodies and serum C-peptide were undetectable. Nivolumab was recommenced without the development of other immune-mediated phenomena until 6 months later, when she developed hypothyroidism with TSH 18 U/L and low free T4. She remains insulin dependent and has required levothyroxine replacement, while she has maintained good radiological and clinical response to immunotherapy. This case is notable for the rapidity of onset and profound nature of DKA at presentation, which occurred two months following commencement of immunotherapy. Despite the association of nivolumab with immune-mediated endocrinopathies, only a very small number of patients developing type 1 DM has been reported to date. Patients should be closely monitored for hyperglycaemia and thyroid dysfunction prior to and periodically during immunotherapy.

Learning points:

  • Nivolumab can induce fulminant type 1 diabetes, resulting in DKA.

  • Nivolumab is frequently associated with thyroid dysfunction, mostly hypothyroidism.

  • Nivolumab-treated patients should be monitored regularly for hyperglycaemia and thyroid dysfunction.

  • Clinicians should be aware and warn patients of potential signs and symptoms of severe hyperglycaemia.

Open access

Marcelo Maia Pinheiro, Felipe Moura Maia Pinheiro and Margareth Afonso Torres

Summary

Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is a chronic disease characterized by autoimmune destruction of pancreatic beta cells and inadequate insulin production. Remission criteria in T1DM take into account serum levels of C-peptide and glycosylated hemoglobin, as well as the dose of insulin administered to the patient. However, remission of T1DM lasting longer than 1 year is rare. We describe here the cases of two young women who presented with positive glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) antibody and classic clinical manifestations of T1DM. Both patients had a prior history of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. They were initially treated with a basal-bolus regimen of insulin (glargine and lispro/glulisine). Once their blood glucose levels were controlled, they were started on oral sitagliptin 100 mg and vitamin D3 5000 IU daily. After this therapy, both patients achieved clinical diabetes remission for 4 years, along with a decrease in anti-GAD antibody levels. These benefits were probably associated with immunological effects of these medications. Inhibition of dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP-4) in animal models deregulates Th1 immune response, increases secretion of Th2 cytokines, activates CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T-cells and prevents IL-17 production. Vitamin D3 also activates CD4+CD25+FoxP3+ regulatory T-cells, and these medications combined can improve the immune response in patients with new-onset T1DM and probably promote sustained clinical remission.

Learning points:

  • The use of sitagliptin and vitamin D3 in patients with new-onset type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) may help decrease the daily insulin requirement by delaying beta cell loss and improving endogenous insulin production.

  • The use of sitagliptin and vitamin D3 in new-onset T1DM could help regulate the imbalance between Th17 and Treg cells.

  • Age 14 years or above, absence of ketoacidosis and positive C-peptide levels in patients with T1DM are good criteria to predict prolonged T1DM remission.

  • The determination of anti-GAD antibodies and C-peptide levels could be helpful in the follow-up of patients in use of sitagliptin and vitamin D3, which could be associated with prolonged T1DM clinical remission.

Open access

Mauro Boronat, Rosa M Sánchez-Hernández, Julia Rodríguez-Cordero, Angelines Jiménez-Ortega and Francisco J Nóvoa

Summary

Treatment with continuous s.c. insulin infusion (CSII) provides better glycemic control and lower risk of hypoglycemia than conventional therapy with multiple daily insulin injections. These benefits have been related to a more reliable absorption and an improved pharmacokinetic profile of insulin delivered through CSII therapy. However, even for patients treated with CSII, exaggerated postmeal hyperglycemic excursions and late postabsorptive hypoglycemia can still constitute a therapeutic challenge. Two female patients with type 1 diabetes who began treatment with CSII required to increase their previous breakfast insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio in order to achieve postprandial glycemic goals. However, they simultaneously presented recurrent episodes of late hypoglycemia several hours after breakfast bolus. Advancing the timing of the bolus was ineffective and bothersome for patients. In both cases, the best therapeutic option was to set a basal insulin rate of zero units per hour during 6 h after breakfast. Even so, they need to routinely take a midmorning snack with 10–20 g of carbohydrates to avoid late postabsorptive hypoglycemia. They have been using this insulin schedule for about 3 years without complications. The action of prandial insulin delivered through insulin pumps can be inappropriately delayed for the requirements of some patients. Although suspension of basal rate can be an acceptable therapeutic alternative for them, these cases demonstrate that new strategies to improve the bioavailability of prandial insulin infused through CSII are still needed.

Learning points

  • CSII remains the most physiologically suitable system of insulin delivery available today.

  • Additionally, the duration of action of prandial insulin delivered through insulin pumps can be excessively prolonged in some patients with type 1 diabetes.

  • These patients can present recurrent late episodes of hypoglycemia several hours after the administration of insulin boluses.

  • The routine suspension of basal insulin for several hours, leaving meal bolus to cover both prandial and basal insulin requirements, can be a therapeutic option for these subjects.

Open access

P Hanson, M Pandit, V Menon, S Roberts and T M Barber

Summary

The case is a 34-year-old woman with long-standing type 1 diabetes mellitus with existing follow-up in the outpatient clinic at the Warwickshire Institute for the Study of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism, UHCW. She had maintained good glycaemic control and glycaemic stability with basal bolus regimen for many years. She had not developed any diabetes-related complications and had no other co-morbidities. Six months ago, she presented to A&E with sudden-onset, well-localised and severe pain in the right iliac fossa, just lateral to the para-umbilical area. Her biochemistry was normal. Ultrasound scan, however, revealed a right-sided ovarian cyst, which was thought to have caused pain to her. She was discharged from A&E with simple analgesia. On subsequent gynaecological follow-up 4 weeks later, her pain remained severe and examination revealed an exquisitely tender subcutaneous nodule at the same location measuring 2 cm in diameter. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan at the time revealed a 1 cm mass in the subcutaneous adipose tissue, which co-localised to her pain. The mass demonstrated a central fat signal surrounded by a peripheral ring: observations consistent with fat necrosis. There were other smaller subcutaneous nodules also observed in the left para-umbilical area. Subsequent surgical resection of the main area of fat necrosis was performed. The patient made an excellent recovery and her pain resolved post-operatively. Histology confirmed the presence of fat necrosis. Fat necrosis is a rare complication of s.c. insulin injection. This case illustrates the importance of considering this diagnosis in patients who inject insulin and develop localised injection-site pain.

Learning points

  • Fat necrosis is a rare complication of insulin injections that can manifest with severe, persistent and well-localised pain.

  • Fat necrosis can masquerade as other pathologies causing diagnostic confusion.

  • The imaging modality of choice for accurate diagnosis of fat necrosis is MRI.

  • Histological confirmation of fat necrosis is important.

  • Appropriate management of localised fat necrosis is surgical excision, with avoidance of further insulin injections into the affected area.

Open access

Dominic Cavlan, Shanti Vijayaraghavan, Susan Gelding and William Drake

Summary

A state of insulin resistance is common to the clinical conditions of both chronic growth hormone (GH) deficiency and GH excess (acromegaly). GH has a physiological role in glucose metabolism in the acute settings of fast and exercise and is the only anabolic hormone secreted in the fasting state. We report the case of a patient in whom knowledge of this aspect of GH physiology was vital to her care. A woman with well-controlled type 1 diabetes mellitus who developed hypopituitarism following the birth of her first child required GH replacement therapy. Hours after the first dose, she developed a rapid metabolic deterioration and awoke with hyperglycaemia and ketonuria. She adjusted her insulin dose accordingly, but the pattern was repeated with each subsequent increase in her dose. Acute GH-induced lipolysis results in an abundance of free fatty acids (FFA); these directly inhibit glucose uptake into muscle, and this can lead to hyperglycaemia. This glucose–fatty acid cycle was first described by Randle et al. in 1963; it is a nutrient-mediated fine control that allows oxidative muscle to switch between glucose and fatty acids as fuel, depending on their availability. We describe the mechanism in detail.

Learning points

  • There is a complex interplay between GH and insulin resistance: chronically, both GH excess and deficiency lead to insulin resistance, but there is also an acute mechanism that is less well appreciated by clinicians.

  • GH activates hormone-sensitive lipase to release FFA into the circulation; these may inhibit the uptake of glucose leading to hyperglycaemia and ketosis in the type 1 diabetic patient.

  • The Randle cycle, or glucose–fatty acid cycle, outlines the mechanism for this acute relationship.

  • Monitoring the adequacy of GH replacement in patients with type 1 diabetes is difficult, with IGF1 an unreliable marker.