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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

C Kamath, J Witczak, M A Adlan and L D Premawardhana

Summary

Thymic enlargement (TE) in Graves’ disease (GD) is often diagnosed incidentally when chest imaging is done for unrelated reasons. This is becoming more common as the frequency of chest imaging increases. There are currently no clear guidelines for managing TE in GD. Subject 1 is a 36-year-old female who presented with weight loss, increased thirst and passage of urine and postural symptoms. Investigations confirmed GD, non-PTH-dependent hypercalcaemia and Addison’s disease (AD). CT scans to exclude underlying malignancy showed TE but normal viscera. A diagnosis of hypercalcaemia due to GD and AD was made. Subject 2, a 52-year-old female, was investigated for recurrent chest infections, haemoptysis and weight loss. CT thorax to exclude chest malignancy, showed TE. Planned thoracotomy was postponed when investigations confirmed GD. Subject 3 is a 47-year-old female who presented with breathlessness, chest pain and shakiness. Investigations confirmed T3 toxicosis due to GD. A CT pulmonary angiogram to exclude pulmonary embolism showed TE. The CT appearances in all three subjects were consistent with benign TE. These subjects were given appropriate endocrine treatment only (without biopsy or thymectomy) as CT appearances showed the following appearances of benign TE – arrowhead shape, straight regular margins, absence of calcification and cyst formation and radiodensity equal to surrounding muscle. Furthermore, interval scans confirmed thymic regression of over 60% in 6 months after endocrine control. In subjects with CT appearances consistent with benign TE, a conservative policy with interval CT scans at 6 months after endocrine control will prevent inappropriate surgical intervention.

Learning points:

  • Chest imaging is common in modern clinical practice and incidental anterior mediastinal abnormalities are therefore diagnosed frequently.

  • Thymic enlargement (TE) associated with Graves’ disease (GD) is occasionally seen in view of the above.

  • There is no validated strategy to manage TE in GD at present.

  • However, CT (or MRI) scan features of the thymus may help characterise benign TE, and such subjects do not require thymic biopsy or surgery at presentation.

  • In them, an expectant ‘wait and see’ policy is recommended with GD treatment only, as the thymus will show significant regression 6 months after endocrine control.

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

V Larouche and M Tamilia

Summary

Enteroviruses, including coxsackieviruses and Echovirus, are well known pathogens responsible for the development of thyroiditis. We describe the case of a 49-year-old woman with no personal or family history of thyroid disease who presented to the emergency room with a two-week history of daily fevers up to 39°C, a sore throat, occasional palpitations and diaphoresis, decreased appetite and an unintentional 10 kg weight loss over the same time course Physical examination revealed mild tachycardia, an intention tremor and a normal-sized, nontender thyroid gland without palpable nodules. The remainder of the physical examination was unremarkable and without stigmata of Graves’ disease. Her initial blood tests revealed overt thyrotoxicosis, elevated liver enzymes, an elevated C-reactive protein, a negative monospot and a positive CMV IgM antibody. Thyroid sonography revealed areas of hypoechogenicity and relatively low vascularity. Fine-needle biopsy showed a lymphocytic infiltrate. The patient was treated symptomatically with propranolol. On follow-up, the patient became euthyroid, and her liver enzymes normalised. Previous cases of CMV-induced thyroiditis occurred in immunosuppressed patients. This is the first reported case of a CMV-mononucleosis-induced thyroiditis in an immunocompetent adult patient and serves as a reminder that viral illnesses are a common cause of thyroiditis with abnormal liver enzymes.

Learning points:

  • The differential diagnosis of thyrotoxicosis with abnormal liver enzymes includes severe hyperthyroidism and thyroid storm caused by Graves’ disease as well as the thyrotoxic phase of a thyroiditis, usually caused by a virus such as coxsackievirus or, in this case, cytomegalovirus.

  • Cytomegalovirus appears to be a recently recognized causal agent for thyroiditis, both in immunosuppressed and immunocompetent patients.

  • Careful follow-up of thyroid function tests in patients with thyroiditis allows clinicians to determine if patients’ thyroid hormone secretion normalizes or if they remain hypothyroid.

Open access

Wei Lin Tay, Wann Jia Loh, Lianne Ai Ling Lee and Chiaw Ling Chng

Summary

We report a patient with Graves’ disease who remained persistently hyperthyroid after a total thyroidectomy and also developed de novo Graves’ ophthalmopathy 5 months after surgery. She was subsequently found to have a mature cystic teratoma containing struma ovarii after undergoing a total hysterectomy and salpingo-oophorectomy for an incidental ovarian lesion.

Learning points:

  • It is important to investigate for other causes of primary hyperthyroidism when thyrotoxicosis persists after total thyroidectomy.

  • TSH receptor antibody may persist after total thyroidectomy and may potentially contribute to the development of de novo Graves’ ophthalmopathy.

Open access

R D’Arcy, M McDonnell, K Spence and C H Courtney

Summary

A 42-year-old male presented with a one-week history of palpitations and sweating episodes. The only significant history was of longstanding idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. Initial ECG demonstrated a sinus tachycardia. Thyroid function testing, undertaken as part of the diagnostic workup, revealed an un-measureable thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and free thyroxine (T4). Upon questioning the patient reported classical thyrotoxic symptoms over the preceding weeks. Given the persistence of symptoms free tri-iodothyronine (T3) was measured and found to be markedly elevated at 48.9 pmol/L (normal range: 3.1–6.8 pmol/L). No goitre or nodular disease was palpable in the neck. Historically there had never been any amiodarone usage. Radionucleotide thyroid uptake imaging (123I) demonstrated significantly reduced tracer uptake in the thyroid. Upon further questioning the patient reported purchasing a weight loss product online from India which supposedly contained sibutramine. He provided one of the tablets and laboratory analysis confirmed the presence of T3 in the tablet. Full symptomatic resolution and normalised thyroid function ensued upon discontinuation of the supplement.

Learning points:

  • Free tri-iodothyronine (T3) measurement may be useful in the presence of symptoms suggestive of thyrotoxicosis with discordant thyroid function tests.

  • Thyroid uptake scanning can be a useful aid to differentiating exogenous hormone exposure from endogenous hyperthyroidism.

  • Ingestion of thyroid hormone may be inadvertent in cases of exogenous thyrotoxicosis.

  • Medicines and supplements sourced online for weight loss may contain thyroxine (T4) or T3 and should be considered as a cause of unexplained exogenous hyperthyroidism.

Open access

Alfredo Di Cerbo, Federica Pezzuto and Alessandro Di Cerbo

Summary

Graves’ disease, the most common form of hyperthyroidism in iodine-replete countries, is associated with the presence of immunoglobulins G (IgGs) that are responsible for thyroid growth and hyperfunction. In this article, we report the unusual case of a patient with acromegaly and a severe form of Graves’ disease. Here, we address the issue concerning the role of growth hormone (GH) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) in influencing thyroid function. Severity of Graves’ disease is exacerbated by coexistent acromegaly and both activity indexes and symptoms and signs of Graves’ disease improve after the surgical remission of acromegaly. We also discuss by which signaling pathways GH and IGF1 may play an integrating role in regulating the function of the immune system in Graves’ disease and synergize the stimulatory activity of Graves’ IgGs.

Learning points:

  • Clinical observations have demonstrated an increased prevalence of euthyroid and hyperthyroid goiters in patients with acromegaly.

  • The coexistence of acromegaly and Graves’ disease is a very unusual event, the prevalence being <1%.

  • Previous in vitro studies have showed that IGF1 synergizes the TSH-induced thyroid cell growth-activating pathways independent of TSH/cAMP/PKA cascade.

  • We report the first case of a severe form of Graves’ disease associated with acromegaly and show that surgical remission of acromegaly leads to a better control of symptoms of Graves’ disease.

Open access

Elizabeth M Madill, Shamil D Cooray and Leon A Bach

Summary

Thyrotoxicosis is an under-recognised but clinically important complication of parathyroidectomy. We report a case of a 37-year-old man with tertiary hyperparathyroidism who initially developed unexplained anxiety, diaphoresis, tachycardia, tremor and hyperreflexia one day after subtotal parathyroidectomy. Thyroid biochemistry revealed suppressed thyroid stimulating hormone and elevated serum free T4 and free T3 levels. Technetium-99m scintigraphy scan confirmed diffusely decreased radiotracer uptake consistent with thyroiditis. The patient was diagnosed with thyrotoxicosis resulting from palpation thyroiditis. Administration of oral beta-adrenergic antagonists alleviated his symptoms and there was biochemical evidence of resolution fourteen days later. This case illustrates the need to counsel patients about thyroiditis as one of the potential risks of parathyroid surgery. It also emphasises the need for biochemical surveillance in patients with unexplained symptoms in the post-operative period and may help to minimise further invasive investigations for diagnostic clarification.

Learning points

  • Thyroiditis as a complication of parathyroidectomy surgery is uncommon but represents an under-recognised phenomenon.

  • It is thought to occur due to mechanical damage of thyroid follicles by vigorous palpation.

  • Palpation of the thyroid gland may impair the physical integrity of the follicular basement membrane, with consequent development of an inflammatory response.

  • The majority of patients are asymptomatic, however clinically significant thyrotoxicosis occurs in a minority.

  • Patients should be advised of thyroiditis/thyrotoxicosis as a potential complication of the procedure.

  • Testing of thyroid function should be performed if clinically indicated, particularly if adrenergic symptoms occur post-operatively with no other cause identified.

Open access

Arshiya Tabasum, Ishrat Khan, Peter Taylor, Gautam Das and Onyebuchi E Okosieme

Summary

TSH receptor antibodies (TRAbs) are the pathological hallmark of Graves’ disease, present in nearly all patients with the disease. Euthyroid Graves’ ophthalmopathy (EGO) is a well-recognized clinical entity, but its occurrence in patients with negative TRAbs is a potential source of diagnostic confusion. A 66-year-old female presented to our endocrinology clinic with right eye pain and diplopia in the absence of thyroid dysfunction. TRAbs were negative, as measured with a highly sensitive third-generation thyrotropin-binding inhibitory immunoglobulin (TBII) ELISA assay. CT and MRI scans of the orbit showed asymmetrical thickening of the inferior rectus muscles but no other inflammatory or malignant orbital pathology. Graves’ ophthalmopathy (GO) was diagnosed on the basis of the clinical and radiological features, and she underwent surgical recession of the inferior rectus muscle with complete resolution of the diplopia and orbital pain. She remained euthyroid over the course of follow-up but ultimately developed overt clinical and biochemical hyperthyroidism, 24 months after the initial presentation. By this time, she had developed positive TRAb as well as thyroid peroxidase antibodies. She responded to treatment with thionamides and remains euthyroid. This case highlights the potential for negative thyroid-specific autoantibodies in the presentation of EGO and underscores the variable temporal relationship between the clinical expression of thyroid dysfunction and orbital disease in the natural evolution of Graves’ disease.

Learning points

  • Euthyroid Graves’ ophthalmopathy can present initially with negative thyroid-specific autoantibodies.

  • Patients with suggestive symptoms of ophthalmopathy should be carefully evaluated for GO with imaging studies even when thyroid function and autoantibodies are normal.

  • Patients with EGO can develop thyroid dysfunction within 4 years of follow-up underpinning the need for long-term follow-up and continued patient and physician vigilance in patients who have been treated for EGO.

Open access

Motoyuki Igata, Kaku Tsuruzoe, Junji Kawashima, Daisuke Kukidome, Tatsuya Kondo, Hiroyuki Motoshima, Seiya Shimoda, Noboru Furukawa, Takeshi Nishikawa, Nobuhiro Miyamura and Eiichi Araki

Summary

Resistance to thyroid hormone (RTH) is a syndrome of reduced tissue responsiveness to thyroid hormones. RTH is majorly caused by mutations in the thyroid hormone receptor beta (THRB) gene. Recent studies indicated a close association of THRB mutations with human cancers, but the role of THRB mutation in carcinogenesis is still unclear. Here, we report a rare case of RTH with a papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC). A 26-year-old woman was referred to our hospital due to a thyroid tumor and hormonal abnormality. She had elevated serum thyroid hormones and non-suppressed TSH levels. Genetic analysis of THRB identified a missense mutation, P452L, leading to a diagnosis of RTH. Ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration biopsy of the tumor and lymph nodes enabled the cytological diagnosis of PTC with lymph node metastases. Total thyroidectomy and neck lymph nodes dissection were performed. Following surgery, thyroxine replacement (≥500 μg) was necessary to avoid the symptoms of hypothyroidism and to maintain her TSH levels within the same range as before the operation. During the follow-up, basal thyroglobulin (Tg) levels were around 6 ng/ml and TSH-stimulated Tg levels were between 12 and 20 ng/ml. Up to present, the patient has had no recurrence of PTC. This indicates that these Tg values are consistent with a biochemical incomplete response or an indeterminate response. There is no consensus regarding the management of thyroid carcinoma in patients with RTH, but aggressive treatments such as total thyroidectomy followed by radioiodine (RAI) and TSH suppression therapy are recommended.

Learning points

  • There are only a few cases reporting the coexistence of RTH and thyroid carcinoma. Moreover, our case would be the first case presenting one with lymph node metastases.

  • Recent studies indicated a close association of THRB mutations with human cancers, but the role of THRB mutation in carcinogenesis is still unclear.

  • When total thyroidectomy is performed in patients with RTH, a large amount of thyroxine is needed to maintain their thyroid function.

  • There is no consensus regarding the management of thyroid carcinoma in patient with RTH, but effective treatments such as total thyroidectomy followed by RAI and TSH suppression therapy are recommended.