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Open access

Jonathan Brown and Luqman Sardar

Summary

A 68-year-old previously independent woman presented multiple times to hospital over the course of 3 months with a history of intermittent weakness, vacant episodes, word finding difficulty and reduced cognition. She was initially diagnosed with a TIA, and later with a traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage following a fall; however, despite resolution of the haemorrhage, symptoms were ongoing and continued to worsen. Confusion screen blood tests showed no cause for the ongoing symptoms. More specialised investigations, such as brain imaging, cerebrospinal fluid analysis, electroencephalogram and serology also gave no clear diagnosis. The patient had a background of hypothyroidism, with plasma thyroid function tests throughout showing normal free thyroxine and a mildly raised thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). However plasma anti-thyroid peroxidise (TPO) antibody titres were very high. After discussion with specialists, it was felt she may have a rare and poorly understood condition known as Hashimoto’s encephalopathy (HE). After a trial with steroids, her symptoms dramatically improved and she was able to live independently again, something which would have been impossible at presentation.

Learning points:

  • In cases of subacute onset confusion where most other diagnoses have already been excluded, testing for anti-thyroid antibodies can identify patients potentially suffering from HE.
  • In these patients, and under the guidance of specialists, a trial of steroids can dramatically improve patient’s symptoms.
  • The majority of patients are euthyroid at the time of presentation, and so normal thyroid function tests should not prevent anti-thyroid antibodies being tested for.
  • Due to high titres of anti-thyroid antibodies being found in a small percentage of the healthy population, HE should be treated as a diagnosis of exclusion, particularly as treatment with steroids may potentially worsen the outcome in other causes of confusion, such as infection.
Open access

Kewan Hamid, Neha Dayalani, Muhammad Jabbar and Elna Saah

Summary

A 6-year-old female presented with chronic intermittent abdominal pain for 1 year. She underwent extensive investigation, imaging and invasive procedures with multiple emergency room visits. It caused a significant distress to the patient and the family with multiple missing days at school in addition to financial burden and emotional stress the child endured. When clinical picture was combined with laboratory finding of macrocytic anemia, a diagnosis of hypothyroidism was made. Although chronic abdominal pain in pediatric population is usually due to functional causes such as irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal migraine and functional abdominal pain. Hypothyroidism can have unusual presentation including abdominal pain. The literature on abdominal pain as the main presentation of thyroid disorder is limited. Pediatricians should exclude hypothyroidism in a patient who presents with chronic abdominal pain. Contrast to its treatment, clinical presentation of hypothyroidism can be diverse and challenging, leading to a delay in diagnosis and causing significant morbidity.

Learning points:

  • Hypothyroidism can have a wide range of clinical presentations that are often nonspecific, which can cause difficulty in diagnosis.
  • In pediatric patients presenting with chronic abdominal pain as only symptom, hypothyroidism should be considered by the pediatricians and ruled out.
  • In pediatric population, treatment of hypothyroidism varies depending on patients’ weight and age.
  • Delay in diagnosis of hypothyroidism can cause significant morbidity and distress in pediatrics population.
Open access

Ehtasham Ahmad, Kashif Hafeez, Muhammad Fahad Arshad, Jimboy Isuga and Apostolos Vrettos

Summary

Primary hypothyroidism is a common endocrine condition, most commonly caused by autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s disease) while Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism is usually a permanent condition in most patients requiring lifelong levothyroxine treatment. Transformation from Hashimoto’s disease to Graves’ disease is considered rare but recently been increasingly recognised. We describe a case of a 61-year-old lady who was diagnosed with hypothyroidism approximately three decades ago and treated with levothyroxine replacement therapy. Approximately 27 years after the initial diagnosis of hypothyroidism, she started to become biochemically and clinically hyperthyroid. This was initially managed with gradual reduction in the dose of levothyroxine, followed by complete cessation of the medication, but she remained hyperthyroid, ultimately requiring anti-thyroid treatment with Carbimazole. This case highlights that there should be a high index of suspicion for a possible conversion of hypothyroidism to hyperthyroidism, even many years after the initial diagnosis of hypothyroidism. To our knowledge, this case illustrates the longest reported time interval between the diagnosis of hypothyroidism until the conversion to hyperthyroidism.

Learning points:

  • Occurrence of Graves’ disease after primary hypothyroidism is uncommon but possible.
  • In this case, there was a time-lapse of almost 28 years and therefore this entity may not be as rare as previously thought.
  • Diagnosis requires careful clinical and biochemical assessment. Otherwise, the case can be easily confused for over-replacement of levothyroxine.
  • We suggest measuring both anti-thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies and TSH receptor antibodies (TRAB) in suspected cases.
  • The underlying aetiology for the conversion is not exactly known but probably involves autoimmune switch by an external stimulus in genetically susceptible individuals.
Open access

Andromachi Vryonidou, Stavroula A Paschou, Fotini Dimitropoulou, Panagiotis Anagnostis, Vasiliki Tzavara and Apostolos Katsivas

Summary

We describe a case of a 40-year-old woman who was admitted to the intensive care unit with a rapid onset of dyspnea and orthopnea. She presented progressive weakness, weight loss and secondary amenorrhea during last year, while intermittent fever was present for the last two months. Initial biochemical evaluation showed anemia, hyponatremia and increased C-reactive protein levels. Clinical and echocardiographic evaluation revealed cardiac tamponade, which was treated with pericardiocentesis. Pleural fluid samples were negative for malignancy, tuberculosis or bacterial infection. Hormonal and serologic evaluation led to the diagnosis of autoimmune polyglandular syndrome (APS) type 2 (including primary adrenal insufficiency and autoimmune thyroiditis), possibly coexisting with systemic lupus erythematosus. After symptomatic rheumatologic treatment followed by replacement therapy with hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone, the patient fully recovered. In patients with the combination of polyserositis, cardiac tamponade and persistent hyponatremia, possible coexistence of rheumatologic and autoimmune endocrine disease, mainly adrenal insufficiency, should be considered. Early diagnosis and non-invasive treatment can be life-saving.

Learning points:

  • In patients with the combination of polyserositis, cardiac tamponade and persistent hyponatremia, possible coexistence of rheumatologic and autoimmune endocrine disease, mainly adrenal insufficiency, should be considered.
  • Early diagnosis and non-invasive treatment can be life-saving for these patients.
  • Primary adrenal insufficiency requires lifelong replacement therapy with oral administration of 15–25 mg hydrocortisone in split doses and 50–200 µg fludrocortisone once daily.
Open access

Alex González Bóssolo, Michelle Mangual Garcia, Paula Jeffs González, Miosotis Garcia, Guillermo Villarmarzo and Jose Hernán Martinez

Summary

Classical papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC) is a variant of papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) known to have excellent prognosis. It has a mortality of 0.3%, even in the presence of distance metastasis. The latest American Thyroid Association guidelines state that although lobectomy is acceptable, active surveillance can be considered in the appropriate setting. We present the case of a 37-year-old female with a history of PTMC who underwent surgical management consisting of a total thyroidectomy. Although she has remained disease-free, her quality of life has been greatly affected by the sequelae of this procedure. This case serves as an excellent example of how first-line surgical treatment may result more harmful than the disease itself.

Learning points:

  • Papillary thyroid microcarcinoma (PTMC) has an excellent prognosis with a mortality of less than 1% even with the presence of distant metastases.
  • Active surveillance is a reasonable management approach for appropriately selected patients.
  • Patients should be thoroughly oriented about the risks and benefits of active surveillance vs immediate surgical treatment. This discussion should include the sequelae of surgery and potential impact on quality of life, especially in the younger population.
  • More studies are needed for stratification of PTMC behavior to determine if conservative management is adequate for all patients with this specific disease variant.
Open access

Marco Russo, Ilenia Marturano, Romilda Masucci, Melania Caruso, Maria Concetta Fornito, Dario Tumino, Martina Tavarelli, Sebastiano Squatrito and Gabriella Pellegriti

Summary

Struma ovarii is a rare ovarian teratoma characterized by the presence of thyroid tissue as the major component. Malignant transformation of the thyroidal component (malignant struma ovarii) has been reported in approximately 5% of struma ovarii. The management and follow-up of this unusual disease remain controversial. We report the case of a woman with a history of autoimmune thyroiditis and a previous resection of a benign struma ovarii that underwent hystero-annexiectomy for malignant struma ovarii with multiple papillary thyroid cancer foci and peritoneal involvement. Total thyroidectomy and subsequent radioiodine treatment lead to complete disease remission after 104 months of follow-up. The diagnosis and natural progression of malignant struma ovarii are difficult to discern, and relapses can occur several years after diagnosis. A multidisciplinary approach is mandatory; after surgical excision of malignant struma, thyroidectomy in combination with 131I therapy should be considered after risk stratification in accordance with a standard approach in differentiated thyroid cancer patients.

Learning points

  • Malignant struma ovarii is a rare disease; diagnosis is difficult and management is not well defined.
  • Predominant sites of metastasis are adjacent pelvic structures.
  • Thyroidectomy and 131I therapy should be considered after risk stratification in accordance with standard approaches in DTC patients.