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Open access

Khaled Aljenaee, Osamah Hakami, Colin Davenport, Gemma Farrell, Tommy Kyaw Tun, Agnieszka Pazderska, Niamh Phelan, Marie-Louise Healy, Seamus Sreenan and John H McDermott

Summary

Measurement of glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c) has been utilised in assessing long-term control of blood glucose in patients with diabetes, as well as diagnosing diabetes and identifying patients at increased risk of developing diabetes in the future. HbA1c reflects the level of blood glucose to which the erythrocyte has been exposed during its lifespan, and there are a number of clinical situations affecting the erythrocyte life span in which HbA1c values may be spuriously high or low and therefore not reflective of the true level of glucose control. In the present case series, we describe the particulars of three patients with diabetes who had spuriously low HbA1c levels as a result of dapsone usage. Furthermore, we discuss the limitations of HbA1c testing and the mechanisms by which it may be affected by dapsone in particular.

Learning points:

  • Various conditions and medications can result in falsely low HbA1c.
  • Dapsone can lead to falsely low HbA1c by inducing haemolysis and by forming methaemoglobin.
  • Capillary glucose measurement, urine glucose measurements and fructosamine levels should be used as alternatives to HbA1c for monitoring glycaemic control if it was falsely low or high.
Open access

Teresa M Canteros, Valeria De Miguel and Patricia Fainstein-Day

Summary

Severe Cushing syndrome (SCS) is considered an emergency that requires immediate treatment to lower serum cortisol levels. Fluconazole may be considered an alternative treatment in Cushing syndrome when ketoconazole is not tolerated or unavailable. We report a 39-year-old woman with a history of partial pancreaticoduodenectomy due to a periampullary neuroendocrine tumor with locoregional extension. Three years after surgery, she developed liver metastases and was started on 120 mg of lanreotide/month, despite which, liver metastases progressed in the following 6 months. The patient showed extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, delirium, moon face, hirsutism and severe proximal weakness. Laboratory tests showed anemia, hyperglycemia and severe hypokalemia. 24-h urinary free cortisol: 2152 nmol/day (reference range (RR): <276), morning serum cortisol 4883.4 nmol/L (RR: 138–690), ACTH 127.3 pmol/L (RR: 2.2–10). She was diagnosed with ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS). On admission, she presented with acute upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding and hemodynamic instability. Intravenous fluconazole 400 mg/day was started. After 48 h, her mental state improved and morning cortisol decreased by 25%. The dose was titrated to 600 mg/day which resulted in a 55% decrease in cortisol levels in 1 week, but then had to be decreased to 400 mg/day because transaminase levels increased over 3 times the upper normal level. After 18 days of treatment, hemodynamic stability, lower cortisol levels and better overall clinical status enabled successful bilateral adrenalectomy. This case report shows that intravenous fluconazole effectively decreased cortisol levels in SCS due to EAS.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing syndrome can be effectively treated with fluconazole to achieve a significant improvement of hypercortisolism prior to bilateral adrenalectomy.
  • Intravenous fluconazole is an alternative treatment when ketoconazole is not tolerated and etomidate is not available.
  • Fluconazole is well tolerated with mild side effects. Hepatotoxicity is usually mild and resolves after drug discontinuation.
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

Chad Bisambar, Andrew Collier, Fraser Duthie and Carron Meney

Summary

A 40-year-old Caucasian female presented with hyperglycaemia, polyuria, polydipsia and weight loss of 6 kg over a 1-month period. There was no personal or family history of malignancy or diabetes mellitus. On examination, she was jaundiced with pale mucous membranes and capillary glucose was 23.1 mmol/L. Initial investigations showed iron deficiency anaemia and obstructive pattern of liver function tests. HbA1c was diagnostic of diabetes mellitus at 79 mmol/mol. Malignancy was suspected and CT chest, abdomen and pelvis showed significant dilatation of intra- and extra-hepatic biliary tree including pancreatic duct, with periampullary 30 mm mass lesion projecting into lumen of duodenum. Enlarged nodes were seen around the superior mesenteric artery. This was confirmed on MRI liver. Fasting gut hormones were normal except for a mildly elevated somatostatin level. Chromogranin A was elevated at 78 pmol/L with normal chromogranin B. Duodenoscopy and biopsy showed possible tubovillous adenoma with low-grade dysplasia, but subsequent endoscopic ultrasound and biopsy revealed a grade 1, well differentiated neuroendocrine tumour. The patient was started on insulin, transfused to Hb >8 g/dL and Whipple’s pancreatico-duodenectomy was undertaken. This showed a well-differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma arising in duodenum (Grade G1 with Ki67: 0.5%), with areas of chronic pancreatitis and preservation of pancreatic islet cells. There was complete resolution of diabetes post Whipple’s procedure and patient was able to come of insulin treatment. Her last HBA1C was 31 mmol/mol, 4 months post tumour resection.

Learning points:

  • Diabetes mellitus and malignancy can be related.
  • A high index of suspicion is needed when diabetes mellitus presents atypically.
  • Non-functional neuroendocrine tumours can present with diabetes mellitus.
Open access

Usman Javaid, Vikram Lal, Catherine Napier, Alison Burbridge and Richard Quinton

Hypogonadal men may experience intense vasomotor symptoms, and vasomotor sweating can occasionally be associated with profound fluid losses. We describe a 37-year-old male, who exhibited persistent hypovolaemic hypernatraemia that was challenging to treat despite a continuous high fluid input (>4–5 L/day). He was noted to have drenching sweats and normochromic anaemia. He had recent traumatic head injury, which resulted in neurocognitive dysfunction, so pituitary function tests were done which showed primary hypogonadism. After exclusion of all other possible causes of excess sweating, hypernatraemia and anaemia, a trial of testosterone therapy was instituted. Sweating dramatically ceased within hours of his first testosterone injection, hydration status normalised within days and anaemia and neurocognitive function progressively improved with continued testosterone replacement. This case demonstrates how, in a susceptible individual, hypovolaemic hypernatraemia can arise from insensible cutaneous fluid loss through eccrine sweating, mediated by vasomotor symptoms of untreated hypogonadism. Although this scenario has not been described in the literature, we felt it needed to be shared with the wider medical community because of how the diagnosis and treatment utterly transformed this patient’s functional status and outcome.

Learning points:

  • Hypogonadal men may experience intense vasomotor symptoms and vasomotor sweating can occasionally be associated with profound fluid losses.
  • Whether or not there is also hyperosmolar hypernatraemia, clinicians should always consider the possibility of underlying hypogonadism in men with normocytic anaemia and excessive sweating.
  • Androgen (testosterone) replacement in hypogonadal men can have a dramatic effect on vasomotor sweating and hot flushes.
Open access

M Horsey, P Hogan and T Oliver

Summary

A 71-year-old woman with severe right lower leg pain, edema and erythema was presented to the Emergency Department and was found to have an extensive deep vein thrombosis (DVT) confirmed by ultrasound. She underwent an extensive evaluation due to her prior history of malignancy and new hypercoagulable state, but no evidence of recurrent disease was detected. Further investigation revealed pernicious anemia (PA), confirmed by the presence of a macrocytic anemia (MCV=115.8fL/red cell, Hgb=9.0g/dL), decreased serum B12 levels (56pg/mL), with resultant increased methylmalonic acid (5303nmol/L) and hyperhomocysteinemia (131μmol/L), the presumed etiology of the DVT. The patient also suffered from autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD), and both antithyroglobulin and anti-intrinsic factor antibodies were detected. She responded briskly to anticoagulation with heparin and coumadin and treatment of PA with intramuscular vitamin B12 injections. Our case suggests that a DVT secondary to hyperhomocystenemia may represent the first sign of polyglandular autoimmune syndrome III-B (PAS III-B), defined as the coexistent autoimmune conditions AITD and PA. It is important to recognize this clinical entity, as patients may not only require acute treatment with vitamin B12 supplementation and prolonged anticoagulation, as in this patient, but may also harbor other autoimmune diseases.

Learning points

  • A DVT can be the first physical manifestation of a polyglandular autoimmune syndrome.
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia secondary to pernicious anemia should be considered as an etiology of an unprovoked DVT in a euthyroid patient with autoimmune thyroid disease.
  • Patients with DVT secondary to hyperhomocysteinemia should undergo screening for the presence of co-existent autoimmune diseases in addition to treatment with B12 supplementation and anticoagulation to prevent recurrent thromboembolism.

Open access

Mohd Shazli Draman, Aoife Brennan, Michael Cullen and John Nolan

Summary

Bilateral lower limb paraesthesia is a common diabetic neuropathy presentation in any busy diabetic clinics. We present a case of a 28-year-old man with a long history of type 1 diabetes mellitus presented with bilateral paraesthesia of both feet and unsteady gait. The patient was able to feel a 10 g monofilament. The presence of brisk reflexes and upgoing plantars in this patient were pointers that further evaluation was warranted. Further investigations revealed diagnosis of subacute combined degeneration of spinal cord. The patient had rapid symptomatic improvement with i.m. vitamin B12 injection. The high volume of patients attending the outpatients with diabetes and paraesthesia can blind us to other possible diagnoses. This article emphasizes that peripheral neuropathy in a diabetic may be due to aetiologies other than diabetes.

Learning points

  • Pernicious anaemia is known to be more common in patients with type 1 diabetes.
  • Cobalamin deficiency is reversible if detected early enough and treated by B12 replacement.
  • By contrast, diabetic neuropathy is generally a progressive complication of diabetes.
  • Peripheral neuropathy in a diabetic may be due to aetiologies other than diabetes.