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Open access

Su Ann Tee, Earn Hui Gan, Mohamad Zaher Kanaan, David Ashley Price, Tim Hoare and Simon H S Pearce

Summary

Primary adrenal insufficiency secondary to syphilis is extremely rare, with only five cases being reported in the literature. We report a case of adrenal insufficiency as a manifestation of Treponema pallidum infection (tertiary syphilis). A 69-year-old, previously fit and well Caucasian male was found to have adrenal insufficiency after being admitted with weight loss, anorexia and postural dizziness resulting in a fall. Biochemical testing showed hyponatraemia, hyperkalaemia, and an inadequate response to Synacthen testing, with a peak cortisol level of 302 nmol/L after administration of 250 µg Synacthen. Abdominal imaging revealed bilateral adrenal hyperplasia with inguinal and retroperitoneal lymphadenopathy. He was started on hydrocortisone replacement; however, it was not until he re-attended ophthalmology with a red eye and visual loss 1 month later, that further work-up revealed the diagnosis of tertiary syphilis. Following a course of penicillin, repeat imaging 5 months later showed resolution of the abnormal radiological appearances. However, adrenal function has not recovered and 3 years following initial presentation, the patient remains on both glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid replacement. In conclusion, this case highlights the importance of considering syphilis as a potential differential diagnosis in patients presenting with adrenal insufficiency and bilateral adrenal masses, given the recent re-emergence of this condition. The relative ease of treating infectious causes of adrenal lesions makes accurate and timely diagnosis crucial.

Learning points:

  • Infectious causes, including syphilis, should be excluded before considering adrenalectomy or biopsy for any patient presenting with an adrenal mass.

  • It is important to perform a full infection screen including tests for human immunodeficiency virus, other blood-borne viruses and concurrent sexually transmitted diseases in patients presenting with bilateral adrenal hyperplasia with primary adrenal insufficiency.

  • Awareness of syphilis as a potential differential diagnosis is important, as it not only has a wide range of clinical presentations, but its prevalence has been increasing in recent times.

Open access

Takatoshi Anno, Hideaki Kaneto, Ryo Shigemoto, Fumiko Kawasaki, Yasuhiro Kawai, Noriyo Urata, Hirofumi Kawamoto, Kohei Kaku and Niro Okimoto

Summary

Hypoglycemia is induced by many causes, especially over-dose of insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents in diabetic subjects. In such a case, hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia is usually observed. On the other hand, it is important to classify secondary hypoglycemia and hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia. Liver injury-induced hypoglycemia is one of the causes of hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia but rarely observed in clinical practice. Herein, we experienced similar 2 cases of non-diabetic hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia. Both of them were elderly subjects with low body weight. Furthermore, it is likely that hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia in both subjects was triggered by severe liver injury, at least in part, due to possible limited liver glycogen store. In elderly subjects with low body weight and/or malnutrition, metabolism in the liver is reduced and glycogen accumulation is decreased. Such alteration brings out acute and marked liver injury, which finally leads to the onset of severe hypoglycemia. It is known that not only liver injury but also multiple organ failure could be induced due to extreme emaciation in subjects. It is likely that in elderly subjects with low body weight and/or malnutrition, multiple organ failure including liver failure could be induced due to the similar reason. Therefore, we should be very careful of such subjects in order to avoid the development of multiple organ failure which leads to life-threatening situations. In conclusion, we should keep in mind the possibility of hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia when we examine severe liver injury, especially in elderly or starving subjects with low body weight and limited liver glycogen stores.

Learning points:

  • It is important to classify secondary hypoglycemia and hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia.

  • Liver injury-induced hypoglycemia is one of the causes of hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia but rarely observed in everyday clinical practice.

  • Herein, we reported similar 2 cases of hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia without diabetes presumably triggered by severe liver injury.

  • In both cases, hypoglycemia was improved by glucose infusion, although their liver injury was not improved.

  • We should keep in mind the possibility of hypoinsulinemic hypoglycemia when we examine severe liver injury, especially in elderly subjects with low body weight.

Open access

Carlos Tavares Bello, Emma van der Poest Clement and Richard Feelders

Summary

Cushing’s syndrome is a rare disease that results from prolonged exposure to supraphysiological levels of glucocorticoids. Severe and rapidly progressive cases are often, but not exclusively, attributable to ectopic ACTH secretion. Extreme hypercortisolism usually has florid metabolic consequences and is associated with an increased infectious and thrombotic risk. The authors report on a case of a 51-year-old male that presented with severe Cushing’s syndrome secondary to an ACTH-secreting pituitary macroadenoma, whose diagnostic workup was affected by concurrent subclinical multifocal pulmonary infectious nodules. The case is noteworthy for the atypically severe presentation of Cushing’s disease, and it should remind the clinician of the possible infectious and thrombotic complications associated with Cushing’s syndrome.

Learning points:

  • Severe Cushing’s syndrome is not always caused by ectopic ACTH secretion.

  • Hypercortisolism is a state of immunosuppression, being associated with an increased risk for opportunistic infections.

  • Infectious pulmonary infiltrates may lead to imaging diagnostic dilemmas when investigating a suspected ectopic ACTH secretion.

  • Cushing’s syndrome carries an increased thromboembolic risk that may even persist after successful surgical management.

  • Antibiotic and venous thromboembolism prophylaxis should be considered in every patient with severe Cushing’s syndrome.