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Open access

Punith Kempegowda, Lauren Quinn, Lisa Shepherd, Samina Kauser, Briony Johnson, Alex Lawson and Andrew Bates

Summary

A 62-year-old Asian British female presented with increasing tiredness. She had multiple co-morbidities and was prescribed steroid inhalers for asthma. She had also received short courses of oral prednisolone for acute asthma exacerbations in the last 2 years. Unfortunately, the frequency and dose of steroids for asthma was unclear from history. Her type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM) control had deteriorated over a short period of time (HbA1c: 48–85 mmol/mol). Blood tests revealed undetectable cortisol and ACTH (<28 mmol/L, <5.0 ng/L). Renin, electrolytes and thyroid function were within normal limits. A diagnosis of secondary adrenal insufficiency, likely due to long-term steroid inhaler and recurrent short courses of oral steroids for asthma exacerbations was made. Patient was commenced on hydrocortisone 10 mg, 5 mg and 5 mg regimen. Steroid inhaler was discontinued following consultation with respiratory physicians. Despite discontinuation of inhaled steroids, patient continued not to mount a response to Synacthen®. Upon further detailed history, patient admitted taking a ‘herbal’ preparation for chronic osteoarthritic knee pain. Toxicology analysis showed presence of dexamethasone, ciprofloxacin, paracetamol, diclofenac, ibuprofen and cimetidine in the herbal medication. Patient was advised to discontinue her herbal preparation. We believe the cause of secondary adrenal insufficiency in our patient was the herbal remedy containing dexamethasone, explaining persistent adrenal suppression despite discontinuation of all prescribed steroids, further possibly contributing to obesity, hypertension and suboptimal control of DM. In conclusion, a comprehensive drug history including herbal and over-the-counter preparations should be elucidated. Investigation for the presence of steroids in these preparations should be considered when patients persist to have secondary adrenal insufficiency despite discontinuation of prescribed steroid medications.

Learning points:

  • The likelihood of complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) in medication-induced secondary adrenal insufficiency should be considered in any patient presenting with potential symptoms of adrenal insufficiency.

  • If the contents of CAM preparation cannot be ascertained, toxicology screening should be considered.

  • Patients should be advised to stop taking CAM preparation when it contains steroids and hydrocortisone replacement therapy commenced, with periodic reassessment of adrenal function, and then if indicated weaned accordingly.

  • Patients should be informed about the contents of CAM therapies, so they can make a truly informed choice regarding the risks and benefits.

  • This case also highlights a need to increase regulatory processes over CAM therapies, given their propensity to contain a number of undisclosed medications and potent steroids.

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

Lima Lawrence, Peng Zhang, Humberto Choi, Usman Ahmad, Valeria Arrossi, Andrei Purysko and Vinni Makin

Summary

Ectopic adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) production leading to ectopic ACTH syndrome accounts for a small proportion of all Cushing’s syndrome (CS) cases. Thymic neuroendocrine tumors are rare neoplasms that may secrete ACTH leading to rapid development of hypercortisolism causing electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities, uncontrolled hypertension and an increased risk for opportunistic infections. We present a unique case of a patient who presented with a mediastinal mass, revealed to be an ACTH-secreting thymic neuroendocrine tumor (NET) causing ectopic CS. As the diagnosis of CS from ectopic ACTH syndrome (EAS) remains challenging, we emphasize the necessity for high clinical suspicion in the appropriate setting, concordance between biochemical, imaging and pathology findings, along with continued vigilant monitoring for recurrence after definitive treatment.

Learning points:

  • Functional thymic neuroendocrine tumors are exceedingly rare.

  • Ectopic Cushing’s syndrome secondary to thymic neuroendocrine tumors secreting ACTH present with features of hypercortisolism including electrolyte and metabolic abnormalities, uncontrolled hypertension and hyperglycemia, and opportunistic infections.

  • The ability to undergo surgery and completeness of resection are the strongest prognostic factors for improved overall survival; however, the recurrence rate remains high.

  • A high degree of initial clinical suspicion followed by vigilant monitoring is required for patients with this challenging disease.

Open access

Gueorgui Dubrocq, Andrea Estrada, Shannon Kelly and Natella Rakhmanina

Summary

An 11-year-old male with perinatally acquired human immune deficiency virus (HIV) infection on antiretroviral regimen, which included abacavir plus lamivudine (Epzicom), didanosine, ritonavir and atazanavir presented with bilateral axillary striae, increased appetite, fatigue, facial swelling and acute weight gain. Two months prior to presentation, the patient had received a diagnostic and therapeutic intra-articular triamcinolone injection in the knee for pain relief and subsequently became progressively swollen in the face, developed striae bilaterally at the axillae, experienced increased appetite, fatigue and an 8 pound weight gain. During the endocrine workup, suspicion for adrenal insufficiency prompted 24-h urine collection for free cortisol, which was found to be undetectable (below LLQ of 1.0 µg/L). This prompted further evaluation of the hypothalamic–pituitary axis (HPA) by standard dose adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test. A 250 µg cosyntropin stimulation test was performed and confirmed HPA axis suppression. Baseline cortisol level was <1 µg/dL and stimulated cortisol level at 30 min was 3.8 µg/dL. The patient was diagnosed with iatrogenic Cushing syndrome and suppression of HPA axis secondary to the drug interaction between ritonavir (RTV) and intra-articular triamcinolone injection. Following endocrine evaluation and workup, the patient was admitted for planned orthopaedic procedure including elective left hamstring lengthening, distal femoral osteotomy and patellar tendon advancement. Taking into consideration the diagnosis of iatrogenic Cushing syndrome, at the start of the surgical procedure, 100 mg IV stress dose of hydrocortisone followed by 50 mg hydrocortisone every 8 h for 24 h was administered. Stress dosing was discontinued 24 h after the procedure. Throughout the hospitalization and upon discharge, the patient continued his ART. From initial presentation, patient has remained clinically stable throughout surgery and postoperative period.

Learning points:

  • Drug–drug interaction between ritonavir and triamcinolone can cause Cushing syndrome.

  • Although triamcinolone has a half-life of 3 h, an intra-articular injection may be systematically absorbed for 3 weeks after injection, and adrenal suppression may last as long as 30 days.

  • Co-administration of ritonavir and corticosteroids may result in an increase of plasma levels of corticosteroids levels, as they are both eliminated by CYP3A metabolism, and this interaction has the potential to prolong the half-life of triamcinolone several fold.

  • No specific guidelines are available for the management of iatrogenic Cushing syndrome secondary to ritonavir and corticosteroids.

  • One treatment option includes replacing ritonavir with a non-protease inhibitor-based regimen.

  • Initiating hydrocortisone replacement therapy to prevent an adrenal crisis is also an alternate option.

Open access

S A A van den Berg, N E van ‘t Veer, J M A Emmen and R H T van Beek

Summary

We present a case of iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome, induced by treatment with fluticasone furoate (1–2 dd, 27.5 µg in each nostril) in a pediatric patient treated for congenital HIV. The pediatric patient described in this case report is a young girl of African descent, treated for congenital HIV with a combination therapy of Lopinavir/Ritonavir (1 dd 320/80 mg), Lamivudine (1 dd 160 mg) and Abacavir (1 dd 320 mg). Our pediatric patient presented with typical Cushingoid features (i.e. striae of the upper legs, full moon face, increased body and facial hair) within weeks after starting fluticasone furoate therapy, which was exacerbated after increasing the dose to 2 dd because of complaints of unresolved rhinitis. Biochemical analysis fitted iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome, with a repeatedly low cortisol (<0.03 µM, ref 0.14–0.60 µM) and low ACTH (9 pg/mL, ref 9–52 pg/mL) without signs of adrenal insufficiency. No other biochemical abnormalities that could point to adrenal or pituitary dysfunction were detected; electrolytes, thyroid and gonadal function, and IGF-1 were within the normal range. Pharmacogenetic analysis revealed that the pediatric patient carried the CYP3A4 *1B/*1G and CYP3A5 *3/*3 genotype (associated with a partial and complete loss of enzyme activity, respectively) which is associated with the development of iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome in patients treated for HIV due to the strong inhibition of CYP3 enzymes by Ritonavir. Upon discontinuation of fluticasone treatment, the pediatric patient improved both clinically and biochemically with normalisation of cortisol and ACTH within a couple of weeks.

Learning points:

  • Fluticasone therapy may induce iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome in a patient treated with anti-retroviral therapy.

  • Pharmacogenetic analysis, in particular CYP3A genotyping, provides useful information in patients treated for HIV with respect to possible future steroid treatment.

  • Fluticasone furoate is not detected in the Siemens Immulite cortisol binding assay.

Open access

Nobuhiro Miyamura, Shuhei Nishida, Mina Itasaka, Hirofumi Matsuda, Takeshi Ohtou, Yasuhiro Yamaguchi, Daisuke Inaba, Sadahiro Tamiya and Tetsuo Nakano

Summary

Hepatitis C-associated osteosclerosis (HCAO), a very rare disorder in which an extremely rapid bone turnover occurs and results in osteosclerosis, was acknowledged in 1990s as a new clinical entity with the unique bone disorder and definite link to chronic type C hepatitis, although the pathogenesis still remains unknown. Affected patients suffer from excruciating deep bone pains. We report the 19th case of HCAO with diagnosis confirmed by bone biopsy, and treated initially with a bisphosphonate, next with corticosteroids and finally with direct acting antivirals (DAA: sofosbuvir and ribavirin) for HCV infection. Risedronate, 17.5 mg/day for 38 days, did not improve the patient’s symptoms or extremely elevated levels of bone markers, which indicated hyper-bone-formation and coexisting hyper-bone-resorption in the patient. Next, intravenous methylprednisolone pulse therapy followed by high-dose oral administration of prednisolone evidently improved them. DAA therapy initiated after steroid therapy successfully achieved sustained virological response, but no additional therapeutic effect on them was observed. Our results strongly suggested that the underlying immunological alteration is the crucial key to clarify the pathogenesis of HCAO. Bone mineral density of lumbar vertebrae of the patient was increased by 14% in four-month period of observation. Clarification of the mechanisms that develop osteosclerosis in HCAO might lead to a new therapeutic perspective for osteoporosis.

Learning points:

  • HCAO is an extremely rare bone disorder, which occurs exclusively in patients affected with HCV, of which only 18 cases have been reported since 1992 and pathogenesis still remains unclear.

  • Pathophysiology of HCAO is highly accelerated rates of both bone formation and bone resorption, with higher rate of formation than that of resorption, which occur in general skeletal leading to the diffuse osteosclerosis with severe bone pains.

  • Steroid therapy including intravenous pulse administration in our patient evidently ameliorated his bone pains and reduced elevated values of bone markers. This was the first successful treatment for HCAO among cases reported so far and seemed to propose a key to solve the question for its pathogenesis.

  • The speed of increase in the bone mineral content of the patient was very high, suggesting that clarification of the mechanism(s) might lead to the development of a novel therapy for osteoporosis.

Open access

Laila Ennazk, Ghizlane El Mghari and Nawal El Ansari

Summary

Autoimmune pancreatitis is a new nosological entity in which a lymphocytic infiltration of the exocrine pancreas is involved. The concomitant onset of autoimmune pancreatitis and type 1 diabetes has been recently described suggesting a unique immune disturbance that compromises the pancreatic endocrine and exocrine functions. We report a case of type1 diabetes onset associated with an autoimmune pancreatitis in a young patient who seemed to present a type 2 autoimmune polyglandular syndrome. This rare association offers the opportunity to better understand pancreatic autoimmune disorders in type 1 diabetes.

Learning points:

  • The case makes it possible to understand the possibility of a simultaneous disturbance of the endocrine and exocrine function of the same organ by one autoimmune process.

  • The diagnosis of type 1 diabetes should make practitioner seek other autoimmune diseases. It is recommended to screen for autoimmune thyroiditis and celiac diseases. We draw attention to consider the autoimmune origin of a pancreatitis associated to type1 diabetes.

  • Autoimmune pancreatitis is a novel rare entity that should be known as it is part of the IgG4-related disease spectrum.

Open access

Rayna Patel, Waheed Mustafa, Michael T Sheaff and Sami Khan

Summary

IgG4-related disease (IgG4-RD) is a rare but increasingly recognised condition, emerging as a clinical entity following the observation of the associations of autoimmune pancreatitis. IgG4-RD is characterised by extensive infiltration of IgG4-positive plasma cells into multiple organs and raised serum IgG4 levels. Clinical manifestations of IgG4 disease classically include autoimmune pancreatitis, lacrimal or salivary gland infiltration (formerly known as Mikulicz disease) and retroperitoneal fibrosis. More rarely, IgG4 disease can cause pituitary hypophysitis. Although most frequently described in middle-aged males, the epidemiology and pathogenesis of the disease remain largely undefined. Nevertheless, an understanding of the wide variety of clinical manifestations of this multi-system condition is undeniably important given the often excellent outcomes following treatment. We describe an unusual presentation of IgG4 disease with isolated diabetes insipidus secondary to pituitary hypophysitis. The patient in question subsequently developed chest pain secondary to mediastinal lymphadenopathy and tubulo-interstitial nephritis leading to renal dysfunction. He was successfully treated with oral steroids and had regular follow-up, and remains well at follow-up 2 years later.

Learning points

  • IgG4 disease, although rare, is increasing in prevalence largely due to increased recognition of its clinical manifestations, including autoimmune pancreatitis, lacrimal or salivary gland infiltration, retroperitoneal fibrosis and, more rarely, lymphocytic hypophysitis presenting as diabetes insipidus.

  • IgG4 disease is highly treatable, and symptoms may show complete resolution with administration of steroids, highlighting the importance of correct and timely diagnosis.

  • Causes of lymphocytic hypophysitis are varied and not distinguishable radiologically. Given the difficulty in biopsying the pituitary, careful attention must be paid to the systemic clinical presentation to provide clues as to the underlying disorder.

Open access

Ling Zhu, Sueziani Binte Zainudin, Manish Kaushik, Li Yan Khor and Chiaw Ling Chng

Summary

Type II amiodarone-induced thyrotoxicosis (AIT) is an uncommon cause of thyroid storm. Due to the rarity of the condition, little is known about the role of plasma exchange in the treatment of severe AIT. A 56-year-old male presented with thyroid storm 2months following cessation of amiodarone. Despite conventional treatment, his condition deteriorated. He underwent two cycles of plasma exchange, which successfully controlled the severe hyperthyroidism. The thyroid hormone levels continued to fall up to 10h following plasma exchange. He subsequently underwent emergency total thyroidectomy and the histology of thyroid gland confirmed type II AIT. Management of thyroid storm secondary to type II AIT can be challenging as patients may not respond to conventional treatments, and thyroid storm may be more harmful in AIT patients owing to the underlying cardiac disease. If used appropriately, plasma exchange can effectively reduce circulating hormones, to allow stabilisation of patients in preparation for emergency thyroidectomy.

Learning points

  • Type II AIT is an uncommon cause of thyroid storm and may not respond well to conventional thyroid storm treatment.

  • Prompt diagnosis and therapy are important, as patients may deteriorate rapidly.

  • Plasma exchange can be used as an effective bridging therapy to emergency thyroidectomy.

  • This case shows that in type II AIT, each cycle of plasma exchange can potentially lower free triiodothyronine levels for 10h.

  • Important factors to consider when planning plasma exchange as a treatment for thyroid storm include timing of each session, type of exchange fluid to be used and timing of surgery.

Open access

Fergus Keane, Aoife M Egan, Patrick Navin, Francesca Brett and Michael C Dennedy

Summary

Pituitary apoplexy represents an uncommon endocrine emergency with potentially life-threatening consequences. Drug-induced pituitary apoplexy is a rare but important consideration when evaluating patients with this presentation. We describe an unusual case of a patient with a known pituitary macroadenoma presenting with acute-onset third nerve palsy and headache secondary to tumour enlargement and apoplexy. This followed gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GNRH) agonist therapy used to treat metastatic prostate carcinoma. Following acute management, the patient underwent transphenoidal debulking of his pituitary gland with resolution of his third nerve palsy. Subsequent retrospective data interpretation revealed that this had been a secretory gonadotropinoma and GNRH agonist therapy resulted in raised gonadotropins and testosterone. Hence, further management of his prostate carcinoma required GNRH antagonist therapy and external beam radiotherapy. This case demonstrates an uncommon complication of GNRH agonist therapy in the setting of a pituitary macroadenoma. It also highlights the importance of careful, serial data interpretation in patients with pituitary adenomas. Finally, this case presents a unique insight into the challenges of managing a hormonal-dependent prostate cancer in a patient with a secretory pituitary tumour.

Learning points

  • While non-functioning gonadotropinomas represent the most common form of pituitary macroadenoma, functioning gonadotropinomas are exceedingly rare.

  • Acute tumour enlargement, with potential pituitary apoplexy, is a rare but important adverse effect arising from GNRH agonist therapy in the presence of both functioning and non-functioning pituitary gonadotropinomas.

  • GNRH antagonist therapy represents an alternative treatment option for patients with hormonal therapy-requiring prostate cancer, who also have diagnosed with a pituitary gonadotropinoma.