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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

Ana G Ferreira, Tiago N Silva, Henrique V Luiz, Filipa D Campos, Maria C Cordeiro and Jorge R Portugal

Sellar plasmacytomas are rare and the differential diagnosis with non-functioning pituitary adenomas might be difficult because of clinical and radiological resemblance. They usually present with neurological signs and intact anterior pituitary function. Some may already have or eventually progress to multiple myeloma. We describe a case associated with extensive anterior pituitary involvement, which is a rare form of presentation. A 68-year-old man was referred to our Endocrinology outpatient clinic due to gynecomastia, reduced libido and sexual impotence. Physical examination, breast ultrasound and mammography confirmed bilateral gynecomastia. Blood tests revealed slight hyperprolactinemia, low testosterone levels, low cortisol levels and central hypothyroidism. Sellar MRI showed a heterogeneous sellar mass (56 × 60 × 61 mm), initially suspected as an invasive macroadenoma. After correcting the pituitary deficits with hydrocortisone and levothyroxine, the patient underwent transsphenoidal surgery. Histological examination revealed a plasmacytoma and multiple myeloma was ruled out. The patient was unsuccessfully treated with radiation therapy (no tumor shrinkage). Myeloma ultimately developed, with several other similar lesions in different locations. The patient was started on chemotherapy, had a bone marrow transplant and is now stable (progression free) on lenalidomide and dexamethasone. The presenting symptoms and panhypopituitarism persisted, requiring chronic replacement treatment with levothyroxine, hydrocortisone and testosterone.

Learning points:

  • Plasmacytomas, although rare, are a possible type of sellar masses, which have a completely different treatment approach, so it is important to make the correct diagnosis.

  • Usually, they present with neurological signs and symptoms and a well-preserved pituitary function, but our case shows that anterior pituitary function can be severely compromised.

  • Making a more extensive evaluation (clinical and biochemical) might provide some clues to this diagnosis.