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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

Joanna Prokop, João Estorninho, Sara Marote, Teresa Sabino, Aida Botelho de Sousa, Eduardo Silva and Ana Agapito

Summary

POEMS syndrome (Polyneuropathy, Organomegaly, Endocrinopathy, Monoclonal protein and Skin changes) is a rare multisystemic disease. Clinical presentation is variable, the only mandatory criteria being polyneuropathy and monoclonal gammapathy in association with one major and one minor criterion. Primary adrenal insufficiency is rarely reported. We describe a case of a 33-year-old patient, in whom the presenting symptoms were mandibular mass, chronic sensory-motor peripheral polyneuropathy and adrenal insufficiency. The laboratory evaluation revealed thrombocytosis, severe hyperkalemia with normal renal function, normal protein electrophoresis and negative serum immunofixation for monoclonal protein. Endocrinologic laboratory work-up confirmed Addison’s disease and revealed subclinical primary hypothyroidism. Thoracic abdominal CT showed hepatosplenomegaly, multiple sclerotic lesions in thoracic vertebra and ribs. The histopathologic examination of the mandibular mass was nondiagnostic. Bone marrow biopsy revealed plasma cell dyscrasia and confirmed POEMS syndrome. Axillary lymphadenopathy biopsy: Castleman’s disease. Gluco-mineralocorticoid substitution and levothyroxine therapy were started with clinical improvement. Autologous hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) was planned, cyclophosphamide induction was started. Meanwhile the patient suffered two ischemic strokes which resulted in aphasia and hemiparesis. Cerebral angiography revealed vascular lesions compatible with vasculitis and stenosis of two cerebral arteries. The patient deceased 14 months after the diagnosis. The young age at presentation, multiplicity of manifestations and difficulties in investigation along with the absence of serum monoclonal protein made the diagnosis challenging. We report this case to highlight the need to consider POEMS syndrome in differential diagnosis of peripheral neuropathy in association with endocrine abnormalities even in young patients.

Learning points:

  • POEMS syndrome is considered a ‘low tumor burden disease’ and the monoclonal protein in 15% of cases is not found by immunofixation.
  • Neuropathy is the dominant characteristic of POEMS syndrome and it is peripheral, ascending, symmetric and affecting both sensation and motor function.
  • Endocrinopathies are a frequent feature of POEMS syndrome, but the cause is unknown.
  • The most common endocrinopathies are hypogonadism, primary hypothyroidism and abnormalities in glucose metabolism.
  • There is no standard therapy; however, patients with disseminated bone marrow involvement are treated with chemotherapy with or without HCT.
Open access

Yoko Olmedilla, Shoaib Khan, Victoria Young, Robin Joseph, Simon Cudlip, Olaf Ansgorge, Ashley Grossman and Aparna Pal

Summary

A 21 year-old woman was found to have a pituitary macroadenoma following an episode of haemophilus meningitis. Biochemical TSH and GH excess was noted, although with no clear clinical correlates. She was treated with a somatostatin analogue (SSA), which restored the euthyroid state and controlled GH hypersecretion, but she re-presented with a further episode of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak and recurrent meningitis. Histology following transsphenoidal adenomectomy revealed a Pit-1 lineage plurihormonal adenoma expressing GH, TSH and PRL. Such plurihormonal pituitary tumours are uncommon and even more unusual to present with spontaneous bacterial meningitis. The second episode of CSF leak and meningitis appears to have been due to SSA therapy-induced tumour shrinkage, which is not a well-described phenomenon in the literature for this type of tumour.

Learning points:

  • Pit-1 lineage GH/TSH/PRL-expressing plurihormonal pituitary adenomas are uncommon. Moreover, this case is unique as the patient first presented with bacterial meningitis.
  • Inmunohistochemical plurihormonality of pituitary adenomas does not necessarily correlate with biochemical and clinical features of hormonal hypersecretion.
  • Given that plurihormonal Pit-1 lineage adenomas may behave more aggressively than classical pituitary adenomas, accurate pathological characterization of these tumours has an increasing prognostic relevance.
  • Although unusual, a CSF leak and meningitis may be precipitated by SSA therapy of a pituitary macroadenoma via tumour shrinkage.
Open access

Anna Tortora, Domenico La Sala and Mario Vitale

Summary

Reduced intestinal absorption of levothyroxine (LT4) is the most common cause of failure to achieve an adequate therapeutic target in hypothyroid patients under replacement therapy. We present the case of a 63-year-old woman with autoimmune hypothyroidism previously well-replaced with tablet LT4 who became unexpectedly no more euthyroid. At presentation, the patient reported the onset of acute gastrointestinal symptoms characterized by nausea, loss of appetite, flatulence, abdominal cramps and diarrhea, associated with increase of thyrotropin levels (TSH: 11 mIU/mL). Suspecting a malabsorption disease, a thyroxine solid-to-liquid formulation switch, at the same daily dose, was adopted to reach an optimal therapeutic target despite the gastrointestinal symptoms persistence. Oral LT4 solution normalized thyroid hormones. Further investigations diagnosed giardiasis, and antibiotic therapy was prescribed. This case report is compatible with a malabsorption syndrome caused by an intestinal parasite (Giardia lamblia). The reduced absorption of levothyroxine was resolved by LT4 oral solution.

Learning points:

  • The failure to adequately control hypothyroidism with oral levothyroxine is a common clinical problem.
  • Before increasing levothyroxine dose in a patient with hypothyroidism previously well-controlled with LT4 tablets but no more in appropriate therapeutic target, we suggest to investigate non adhesion to LT4 therapy, drug or food interference with levothyroxine absorption, intestinal infection, inflammatory intestinal disease, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, short bowel syndrome after intestinal or bariatric surgery, hepatic cirrhosis and congestive heart failure.
  • LT4 oral solution has a better absorptive profile than the tablet. In hypothyroid patients affected by malabsorption syndrome, switch of replacement therapy from tablet to liquid LT4 should be tested before increasing the dose of LT4.
Open access

Ilaria Teobaldi, Vincenzo Stoico, Fabrizia Perrone, Massimiliano Bruti, Enzo Bonora and Alessandro Mantovani

Summary

Honey has been used as a wound dressing for hundreds of years by ancient civilizations, but only recently it has acquired scientific interest because of its relevant biological properties. In the last decade, indeed, several trials and observational studies have reported that, compared to conventional treatment (e.g. antiseptics, polyurethane film, paraffin gauze, soframycin-impregnated gauze), honey dressings seem to be better in healing time of different types of wounds, including diabetic foot ulcers. However, to date, information about a potential favorable biological effect of honey dressings on diabetic ulcers with exposed tendon are still scarce. Notably, foot or leg ulcers with exposed tendon are serious complications in patients with type 2 diabetes, as they are associated with an increased risk of adverse outcome. Therefore, the use of effective and safe treatments to bring these lesions to timely healing is very important in clinical practice. We herein report the case of a Caucasian adult patient with type 2 diabetes presenting a chronic right posterior lower limb ulcer (Texas University Classification (TUC) 2D) with tendon exposure that was successfully treated with honey dressings (glucose oxidase (GOX) positive with peroxide activity) in addition to systemic antibiotic therapy, surgical toilette and skin graft. In our case, the use of honey dressing for treating exposed tendon tissue probably allowed the timely wound healing. Although further studies are required, such treatment may constitute part of the comprehensive management of diabetic wounds, including those with tendon exposure, and should be considered by clinicians in clinical practice.

Learning points:

  • Honey has been used as a wound dressing for hundreds of years, but only recently it has acquired scientific interest for its biological properties.
  • Several studies have documented that, compared to conventional dressings, honey seems to be better in healing time of different types of wounds, including diabetic foot ulcers.
  • Our case report is the first to highlight the importance to use honey dressings also for the treatment of ulcers with tendon exposure in patients with type 2 diabetes, suggesting that this kind of dressing should be considered by clinicians in clinical practice.
Open access

Bidhya Timilsina, Niranjan Tachamo, Prem Raj Parajuli and Ilan Gabriely

Summary

A 74-year-old woman presented with progressive lethargy, confusion, poor appetite and abdominal pain. She was found to have non-PTH-mediated severe hypercalcemia with renal failure and metabolic alkalosis. Extensive workup for hypercalcemia to rule out alternate etiology was unrevealing. Upon further questioning, she was taking excess calcium carbonate (Tums) for her worsening heartburn. She was diagnosed with milk-alkali syndrome (MAS). Her hypercalcemia and alkalosis recovered completely with aggressive hydration along with improvement in her renal function. High index of suspicion should be maintained and history of drug and supplements, especially calcium ingestion, should be routinely asked in patients presenting with hypercalcemia to timely diagnose MAS and prevent unnecessary tests and treatments.

Learning points:

  • Suspect milk-alkali syndrome in patients with hypercalcemia, metabolic alkalosis and renal failure, especially in context of ingestion of excess calcium-containing supplements.
  • Careful history of over-the-counter medications, supplements and diet is crucial to diagnose milk-alkali syndrome.
  • Milk-alkali syndrome may cause severe hypercalcemia in up to 25–30% of cases.
Open access

Alessandro Mantovani, Ilaria Teobaldi, Vincenzo Stoico, Fabrizia Perrone, Marina Zannoni, Luca Cima, Massimiliano Bruti, Lucia Mingolla, Maddalena Trombetta and Enzo Bonora

Summary

After basal cell carcinoma, the cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) is the second most frequent non-melanoma skin cancer worldwide, and, classically, arises from the upper coats of the epidermis of sun-exposed areas or from skin areas constantly exposed to a chronic inflammatory stimulus. The occurrence of cSCC seems to be linked to several factors, including exposure to sunlight (or other ultraviolet radiations), immunosuppression, chronic scarring conditions and some familial cancer syndromes. Although the majority of cSCCs are adequately eradicated by surgical excision, a subgroup of cSCC may be linked with an increased risk of recurrence, metastasis and death. The incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus is constantly increasing worldwide. Importantly, diabetes mellitus is a strong risk factor for cancers (including cutaneous tumors) and is highly related with poor cancer outcomes. At present, in the literature, squamous cell carcinoma developing in association with diabetic foot ulcers has been already reported in some reports; however, additional data are needed to make the clinicians aware of this rare, although possible, complication. Therefore, we herein report an unusual case of an elderly man with T2DM and a positive oncological history, presenting a cSCC involving the skin overlying the first toe of left foot. The growing cSCC appeared approximately 3 years after the appearance of a diabetic ulcer.

Learning points:

  • Diabetic foot ulcers are an important and severe complication of diabetes mellitus and often can result in foot amputation.
  • Chronic and non-healing diabetic foot ulcers are often observed in clinical practice.
  • Clinicians should always take into consideration the malignant degeneration (e.g., cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma) of any chronic non-healing diabetic foot ulcer in elderly T2DM individuals.
  • Timely surgical resection of a chronic, non-healing diabetic foot ulcer might preclude the development of a cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma.
Open access

Melissa Katz, Simon Smith, Luke Conway and Ashim Sinha

Summary

Diabetes mellitus is a well-recognised risk factor for melioidosis, the disease caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei, which is endemic in northern Australia and Southeast Asia. We present the initial diagnostic dilemma of a febrile patient from northern Australia with type 1 diabetes mellitus and negative blood cultures. After a 6-week history of fevers and undifferentiated abdominal pain, MRI of her spine revealed a psoas abscess. She underwent drainage of the abscess which cultured B. pseudomallei. She completed 6 weeks of intravenous (IV) ceftazidime and oral trimethoprim/sulphamethoxazole (TMP/SMX) followed by a 12-week course of oral TMP/SMX. We postulate that the likely route of infection was inoculation via her skin, the integrity of which was compromised from her insulin pump insertion sites and an underlying dermatological condition.

Learning points:

  • Diabetes mellitus is the strongest risk factor for developing melioidosis.
  • Atypical infections need to be considered in individuals with diabetes mellitus who are febrile, even if blood cultures are negative.
  • There is heterogeneity in the clinical presentation of melioidosis due to variable organ involvement.
  • Consider melioidosis in febrile patients who have travelled to northern Australia, Asia and other endemic areas.
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

Gordon Sloan, Tania Kakoudaki and Nishant Ranjan

Summary

We report a case of a 63-year-old man who developed diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) associated with canagliflozin, a sodium glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT-2) inhibitor. He presented acutely unwell with a silent myocardial infarction, diverticulitis and DKA with a minimally raised blood glucose level. Standard therapy for DKA was initiated. Despite this, ketonaemia persisted for a total of 12 days after discontinuation of canagliflozin. Glucosuria lasting for several days despite discontinuation of the medications is a recognised phenomenon. However, this is the longest duration of ketonaemia to be reported. The cause of prolonged SGLT-2 inhibition remains uncertain. Deviation from the normal DKA treatment protocol and use of personalised regimens may be required in order to prevent relapse into ketoacidosis while avoiding hypoglycaemia in those that develop this condition.

Learning points:

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) may develop in the presence of lower-than-expected blood glucose levels in patients treated with a sodium glucose co-transporter 2 (SGLT-2) inhibitor.
  • Certain individuals prescribed with SGLT-2 inhibitors may be more at risk of DKA, for example, those with a low beta cell function reserve, excessive alcohol consumption and a low carbohydrate diet.
  • In order to reduce the risk of SGLT-2 inhibitor-associated DKA, all patients must be carefully selected before prescription of the medication and appropriately educated.
  • Increased serum ketone levels and glucosuria have been reported to persist for several days despite discontinuation of their SGLT-2 inhibitor.
  • Physicians should consider individualised treatment regimens for subjects with prolonged DKA in the presence of SGLT-2 inhibition.