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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

Ilan Rahmani Tzvi-Ran, Judith Olchowski, Merav Fraenkel, Asher Bashiri and Leonid Barski

Summary

A previously healthy 24-year-old female underwent an emergent caesarean section without a major bleeding described. During the first post-operative days (POD) she complained of fatigue, headache and a failure to lactate with no specific and conclusive findings on head CT. On the following days, fever rose with a suspicion of an obstetric surgery-related infection, again with no evidence to support the diagnosis. On POD5 a new-onset hyponatremia was documented. The urine analysis suggested SIADH, and following a treatment failure, further investigation was performed and demonstrated both central hypothyroidism and adrenal insufficiency. The patient was immediately treated with hydrocortisone followed by levothyroxine with a rapid resolution of symptoms and hyponatremia. Further laboratory investigation demonstrated anterior hypopituitarism. The main differential diagnosis was Sheehan’s syndrome vs lymphocytic hypophysitis. Brain MRI was performed as soon as it was available and findings consistent with Sheehan’s syndrome confirmed the diagnosis. Lifelong hormonal replacement therapy was initiated. Further complaints on polyuria and polydipsia have led to a water deprivation testing and the diagnosis of partial central insipidus and appropriate treatment with DDAVP.

Learning points:

  • Sheehan’s syndrome can occur, though rarely, without an obvious major post-partum hemorrhage.

  • The syndrome may resemble lymphocytic hypophysitis clinically and imaging studies may be crucial in order to differentiate both conditions.

  • Hypopituitarism presentation may be variable and depends on the specific hormone deficit.

  • Euvolemic hyponatremia workup must include thyroid function test and 08:00 AM cortisol levels.

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.

Open access

Susan Ahern, Mark Daniels and Amrit Bhangoo

Summary

In this case report, we present a novel mutation in Lim-homeodomain (LIM-HD) transcription factor, LHX3, manifesting as combined pituitary hormone deficiency (CPHD). This female patient was originally diagnosed in Egypt during infancy with Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA) requiring several blood transfusions. Around 10 months of age, she was diagnosed and treated for central hypothyroidism. It was not until she came to the United States around two-and-a-half years of age that she was diagnosed and treated for growth hormone deficiency. Her response to growth hormone replacement on linear growth and muscle tone were impressive. She still suffers from severe global development delay likely due to delay in treatment of congenital central hypothyroidism followed by poor access to reliable thyroid medications. Her diagnosis of DBA was not confirmed after genetic testing in the United States and her hemoglobin normalized with hormone replacement therapies. We will review the patient’s clinical course as well as a review of LHX3 mutations and the associated phenotype.

Learning points:

  • Describe an unusual presentation of undertreated pituitary hormone deficiencies in early life

  • Combined pituitary hormone deficiency due to a novel mutation in pituitary transcription factor, LHX3

  • Describe the clinical phenotype of combined pituitary hormone deficiency due to LHX3 mutations

Open access

Philip D Oddie, Benjamin B Albert, Paul L Hofman, Craig Jefferies, Stephen Laughton and Philippa J Carter

Summary

Adrenocortical carcinoma (ACC) during childhood is a rare malignant tumor that frequently results in glucocorticoid and/or androgen excess. When there are signs of microscopic or macroscopic residual disease, adjuvant therapy is recommended with mitotane, an adrenolytic and cytotoxic drug. In addition to the anticipated side effect of adrenal insufficiency, mitotane is known to cause gynecomastia and hypothyroidism in adults. It has never been reported to cause precocious puberty. A 4-year-old girl presented with a 6-week history of virilization and elevated androgen levels and 1-year advancement in bone age. Imaging revealed a right adrenal mass, which was subsequently surgically excised. Histology revealed ACC with multiple unfavorable features, including high mitotic index, capsular invasion and atypical mitoses. Adjuvant chemotherapy was started with mitotane, cisplatin, etoposide and doxorubicin. She experienced severe gastrointestinal side effects and symptomatic adrenal insufficiency, which occurred despite physiological-dose corticosteroid replacement. She also developed hypothyroidism that responded to treatment with levothyroxine and peripheral precocious puberty (PPP) with progressive breast development and rapidly advancing bone age. Five months after discontinuing mitotane, her adrenal insufficiency persisted and she developed secondary central precocious puberty (CPP). This case demonstrates the diverse endocrine complications associated with mitotane therapy, which contrast with the presentation of ACC itself. It also provides the first evidence that the known estrogenic effect of mitotane can manifest as PPP.

Learning points:

  • Adrenocortical carcinoma is an important differential diagnosis for virilization in young children

  • Mitotane is a chemotherapeutic agent that is used to treat adrenocortical carcinoma and causes adrenal necrosis

  • Mitotane is an endocrine disruptor. In addition to the intended effect of adrenal insufficiency, it can cause hypothyroidism, with gynecomastia also reported in adults.

  • Patients taking mitotane require very high doses of hydrocortisone replacement therapy because mitotane interferes with steroid metabolism. This effect persists after mitotane therapy is completed

  • In our case, mitotane caused peripheral precocious puberty, possibly through its estrogenic effect.

Open access

Lukas Burget, Laura Audí Parera, Monica Fernandez-Cancio, Rolf Gräni, Christoph Henzen and Christa E Flück

Summary

Steroidogenic acute regulatory protein (STAR) is a key protein for the intracellular transport of cholesterol to the mitochondrium in endocrine organs (e.g. adrenal gland, ovaries, testes) and essential for the synthesis of all steroid hormones. Several mutations have been described and the clinical phenotype varies strongly and may be grouped into classic lipoid congenital adrenal hyperplasia (LCAH), in which all steroidogenesis is disrupted, and non-classic LCAH, which resembles familial glucocorticoid deficiency (FGD), which affects predominantly adrenal functions. Classic LCAH is characterized by early and potentially life-threatening manifestation of primary adrenal insufficiency (PAI) with electrolyte disturbances and 46,XY disorder of sex development (DSD) in males as well as lack of pubertal development in both sexes. Non-classic LCAH manifests usually later in life with PAI. Nevertheless, life-long follow-up of gonadal function is warranted. We describe a 26-year-old female patient who was diagnosed with PAI early in life without detailed diagnostic work-up. At the age of 14 months, she presented with hyperpigmentation, elevated ACTH and low cortisol levels. As her older brother was diagnosed with PAI two years earlier, she was put on hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone replacement therapy before an Addisonian crisis occurred. Upon review of her case in adulthood, consanguinity was noted in the family. Genetic analysis for PAI revealed a homozygous mutation in the STAR gene (c.562C>T, p.Arg188Cys) in both siblings. This mutation has been previously described in non-classic LCAH. This case illustrates that early onset, familial PAI is likely due to autosomal recessive genetic mutations in known genes causing PAI.

Learning points:

  • In childhood-onset PAI, a genetic cause is most likely, especially in families with consanguinity.

  • Adult patients with an etiologically unsolved PAI should be reviewed repeatedly and genetic work-up should be considered.

  • Knowing the exact genetic diagnosis in PAI is essential for genetic counselling and may allow disease-specific treatment.

  • Young men and women with NCLAH due to homozygous STAR Arg188Cys mutation should be investigated for their gonadal function as hypogonadism and infertility might occur during puberty or in early adulthood.

Open access

Nicholas R Zessis, Jennifer L Nicholas and Stephen I Stone

Summary

Bilateral adrenal hemorrhages rarely occur during the neonatal period and are often associated with traumatic vaginal deliveries. However, the adrenal gland has highly regenerative capabilities and adrenal insufficiency typically resolves over time. We evaluated a newborn female after experiencing fetal macrosomia and a traumatic vaginal delivery. She developed acidosis and acute renal injury. Large adrenal hemorrhages were noted bilaterally on ultrasound, and she was diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency based on characteristic electrolyte changes and a low cortisol (4.2 µg/dL). On follow-up testing, this patient was unable to be weaned off of hydrocortisone or fludrocortisone despite resolution of hemorrhages on ultrasound. Providers should consider bilateral adrenal hemorrhage when evaluating critically ill neonates after a traumatic delivery. In extreme cases, this may be a persistent process.

Learning points:

  • Risk factors for adrenal hemorrhage include fetal macrosomia, traumatic vaginal delivery and critical acidemia.

  • Signs of adrenal hemorrhage include jaundice, flank mass, skin discoloration or scrotal hematoma.

  • Adrenal insufficiency often is a transient process when related to adrenal hemorrhage.

  • Severe adrenal hemorrhages can occur in the absence of symptoms.

  • Though rare, persistent adrenal insufficiency may occur in extremely severe cases of bilateral adrenal hemorrhage.

  • Consider adrenal hemorrhage when evaluating a neonate for shock in the absence of an infectious etiology.

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

Anna Kopczak, Adrian-Minh Schumacher, Sandra Nischwitz, Tania Kümpfel, Günter K Stalla and Matthias K Auer

Summary

The autoimmune polyendocrinopathy–candidiasis–ectodermal dystrophy (APECED) syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by a mutation in the autoimmune regulator (AIRE) gene. Immune deficiency, hypoparathyroidism and Addison’s disease due to autoimmune dysfunction are the major clinical signs of APECED. We report on a 21-year-old female APECED patient with two inactivating mutations in the AIRE gene. She presented with sudden onset of periodic nausea. Adrenal insufficiency was diagnosed by means of the ACTH stimulation test. Despite initiation of hormone replacement therapy with hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone, nausea persisted and the patient developed cognitive deficits and a loss of interest which led to the diagnosis of depression. She was admitted to the psychiatric department for further diagnostic assessment. An EEG showed a focal epileptic pattern. Glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) antibodies, which had been negative eight years earlier, were now elevated in serum and in the cerebrospinal fluid. Oligoclonal bands were positive indicating an inflammatory process with intrathecal antibody production in the central nervous system (CNS). The periodic nausea was identified as dialeptic seizures, which clinically presented as gastrointestinal aura followed by episodes of reduced consciousness that occurred about 3–4 times per day. GAD antibody-associated limbic encephalitis (LE) was diagnosed. Besides antiepileptic therapy, an immunosuppressive treatment with corticosteroids was initiated followed by azathioprine. The presence of nausea and vomiting in endocrine patients with autoimmune disorders is indicative of adrenal insufficiency. However, our case report shows that episodic nausea may be a symptom of epileptic seizures due to GAD antibodies-associated LE in patients with APECED.

Learning points:

  • Episodic nausea cannot only be a sign of Addison’s disease, but can also be caused by epileptic seizures with gastrointestinal aura due to limbic encephalitis.

  • GAD antibodies are not only found in diabetes mellitus type 1, but they are also associated with autoimmune limbic encephalitis and can appear over time.

  • Limbic encephalitis can be another manifestation of autoimmune disease in patients with APECED/APS-1 that presents over the time course of the disease.

Open access

Catarina Roque, Ricardo Fonseca, Carlos Tavares Bello, Carlos Vasconcelos, António Galzerano and Sância Ramos

Summary

Primary adrenal lymphoma is a rare malignancy. It frequently presents bilaterally and with symptoms of adrenal insufficiency. Amiodarone may induce secondary organ dysfunction, and thyrotoxicosis develops in 15% of cases. The symptomatology of both conditions is nonspecific, especially in the elderly, and a high suspicion index is necessary for appropriate diagnosis. A 78-year-old female presented to the emergency department with confusion, nausea and vomiting. She had recently been to the emergency department with urinary tract infection, vomiting and acute hypochloremic hyponatremia. Upon re-evaluation, the leukocyturia persisted and because of TSH 0.01 µU/mL and free-T4 68 (10–18) pmol/L, she was admitted to the Endocrinology ward. Further evaluation supported amiodarone-induced thyroiditis type 2. Sepsis ensued, in the setting of nosocomial pneumonia. Hemodynamic instability, hyponatremia, hypoglycemia and vomiting raised the suspicion of adrenocortical insufficiency. Fluid resuscitation and hydrocortisone led to clinical improvement, and adrenal insufficiency was admitted. The thoracoabdominal tomography suggested an endobronchic primary lesion with hepatic and adrenal secondary deposits (6.6 and 7 cm), but this was confirmed neither on pleural effusion nor on bronchofibroscopic fluid analyses. The adrenals were not accessible for biopsy. Despite high-dose hydrocortisone maintenance, the patient died before definite diagnosis. The autopsy confirmed primary non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Learning points:

  • Primary adrenal lymphoma is a rare cause of adrenal insufficiency, but progression can be fast and fatal.

  • Hyperpigmentation is frequently absent.

  • The presenting symptoms are nonspecific and might mimic infection. Disproportion of the general state with signs of specific organ symptomatology is a diagnostic clue.

  • Infection may precipitate adrenal crisis and worsen thyroid function with further adrenal insufficiency exacerbation.

  • In the context of thyrotoxicosis, there may be little clinical response to a therapeutic trial with standard dose glucocorticoids.

  • High-dose glucocorticoid substitution may be required to achieve clinical stability in thyrotoxic patients.