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Open access

E Bahaeldein and M J Brassill

Summary

Postmenopausal hyperandrogenism is a relatively rare diagnosis resulting from excess androgen production from the adrenals or ovaries. The exclusion of malignant causes is a priority. Laboratory tests and imaging are utilised to help differentiate the source of excess androgens. We report two cases of postmenopausal hyperandrogenism in women aged 75 and 67 years. Both cases presented with clinical features suggestive of hyperandrogenism which had developed gradually over the previous 2 years. Laboratory investigations confirmed a significant elevation in their serum testosterone levels. In both cases, imaging did not reveal any abnormality of the adrenals or ovaries. To help differentiate an adrenal vs ovarian source a single-dose GnRH analogue was given with measurement of testosterone and gonadotrophin levels pre and post. The reduction in gonadotrophins achieved by the GnRH analogue resulted in suppression of testosterone levels which suggested an ovarian source. Both patients proceeded to bilateral oophorectomy. Histology revealed a benign hilus cell tumour in one case and a benign Leydig cell tumour in the other.

Learning points:

  • A key part of the work-up of postmenopausal hyperandrogenism is to differentiate between an adrenal or an ovarian source of excess androgens;

  • Imaging may not identify small ovarian tumours or hyperthecosis and may also identify incidental adrenal masses which are non-functioning;

  • Current guidelines suggest ovarian and adrenal venous sampling when imaging is inconclusive but this requires technical expertise and has a high failure rate;

  • GnRH analogue use can successfully confirm ovarian source and should be considered as a diagnostic tool in this setting.

Open access

N Chelaghma, S O Oyibo and J Rajkanna

Summary

Hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism is due to impaired or reduced gonadotrophin secretion from the pituitary gland. In the absence of any anatomical or functional lesions of the pituitary or hypothalamic gland, the hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism is referred to as idiopathic hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism (IHH). We present a case of a young lady born to consanguineous parents who was found to have IHH due to a rare gene mutation.

Learning points:

  • The genetic basis of a majority of cases of IHH remains unknown.

  • IHH can have different clinical endocrine manifestations.

  • Patients can present late to the healthcare service because of unawareness and stigmata associated with the clinical features.

  • Family members of affected individuals can be affected to varying degrees.

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

Peter Novodvorsky, Emma Walkinshaw, Waliur Rahman, Valerie Gordon, Karen Towse, Sarah Mitchell, Dinesh Selvarajah, Priya Madhuvrata and Alia Munir

Summary

Bariatric surgery is an effective therapy for obesity but is associated with long-term complications such as dumping syndromes and nutritional deficiencies. We report a case of a 26-year-old caucasian female, with history of morbid obesity and gestational diabetes (GDM), who became pregnant 4 months after Roux-en-Y bypass surgery. She developed GDM during subsequent pregnancy, which was initially managed with metformin and insulin. Nocturnal hypoglycaemia causing sleep disturbance and daytime somnolence occured at 19 weeks of pregnancy (19/40). Treatment with rapid-acting carbohydrates precipitated further hypoglycaemia. Laboratory investigations confirmed hypoglycaemia at 2.2 mmol/L with appropriately low insulin and C-peptide, intact HPA axis and negative IgG insulin antibodies. The patient was seen regularly by the bariatric dietetic team but concerns about compliance persisted. A FreeStyle Libre system was used from 21/40 enabling the patient a real-time feedback of changes in interstitial glucose following high or low GI index food intake. The patient declined a trial of acarbose but consented to an intraveneous dextrose infusion overnight resulting in improvement but not complete abolishment of nocturnal hypoglycaemia. Hypoglycaemias subsided at 34/40 and metformin and insulin had to be re-introduced due to high post-prandial blood glucose readings. An emergency C-section was indicated at 35 + 1/40 and a small-for-gestational-age female was delivered. There have been no further episodes of hypoglycaemia following delivery. This case illustrates challenges in the management of pregnancy following bariatric surgery. To our knowledge, this is the first use of FreeStyle Libre in dumping syndrome in pregnancy following bariatric surgery with troublesome nocturnal hypoglycaemia.

Learning points:

  • Bariatric surgery represents the most effective treatment modality in cases of severe obesity. With increasing prevalence of obesity, more people are likely to undergo bariatric procedures, many of which are women of childbearing age.

  • Fertility generally improves after bariatric surgery due to weight reduction, but pregnancy is not recommended for at least 12–24 months after surgery. If pregnancy occurs, there are currently little evidence-based guidelines available on how to manage complications such as dumping syndromes or gestational diabetes (GDM) in women with history of bariatric surgery.

  • Diagnosis of GDM relies on the use of a 75 g oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). The use of this test in pregnant women is not recommended due to its potential to precipitate dumping syndrome. Capillary glucose monitoring profiles or continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is being currently discussed as alternative testing modalities.

  • As the CGM technology becomes more available, including the recently introduced FreeStyle Libre Flash glucose monitoring system, more pregnant women, including those after bariatric surgery, will have access to this technology. We suggest urgent development of guidelines regarding the use of CGM and flash glucose monitoring tools in these circumstances and in the interim recommend careful consideration of their use on a case-to-case basis.

Open access

I Castilla-Cortazar, J R De Ita, G A Aguirre, M García–Magariño, I Martín-Estal, V J Lara-Diaz and M I Elizondo

Summary

Herein, we present a 14-year-old patient with short stature (134 cm) referred from Paediatrics to our department for complementary evaluation since growth hormone (GH) treatment failed to show any improvement. He was born premature and small for gestational age. Genital examination classified the patient as Tanner I–II with small penis and testicular size for his age. Biochemical analyses revealed normal GH levels with low serum insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Molecular diagnosis confirmed several mutations in IGF1R and IGFALS, and so he was diagnosed with Laron Syndrome or GH insensibility and treated with IGF-1 substitutive therapy.

Learning points:

  • Evaluation of the GH/IGF-1 axis when short stature does not respond to conservative treatment must be included in the ordinary practice.

  • Laron Syndrome real incidence should be calculated once undiagnosed cases arise, as treatment, due to lack of market, is unaffordable.

  • Even when adulthood is reached, and no longitudinal growth can be achieved, still IGF-1 treatment in Laron Syndrome patients should be pursued as metabolic and protective derangements could arise.

Open access

Khaled Aljenaee, Sulaiman Ali, Seong Keat Cheah, Owen MacEneaney, Niall Mulligan, Neil Hickey, Tommy Kyaw Tun, Seamus Sreenan and John H McDermott

Markedly elevated androgen levels can lead to clinical virilization in females. Clinical features of virilization in a female patient, in association with biochemical hyperandrogenism, should prompt a search for an androgen-producing tumor, especially of ovarian or adrenal origin. We herein report the case of a 60-year-old woman of Pakistani origin who presented with the incidental finding of male pattern baldness and hirsutism. Her serum testosterone level was markedly elevated at 21 nmol/L (normal range: 0.4–1.7 nmol/L), while her DHEAS level was normal, indicating a likely ovarian source of her elevated testosterone. Subsequently, a CT abdomen-pelvis was performed, which revealed a bulky right ovary, confirmed on MRI of the pelvis as an enlarged right ovary, measuring 2.9 × 2.2 cm transaxially. A laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy was performed, and histopathological examination and immunohistochemistry confirmed the diagnosis of a Leydig cell tumor, a rare tumor accounting for 0.1% of ovarian tumors. Surgical resection led to normalization of testosterone levels.

Learning points:

  • Hirsutism in postmenopausal women should trigger suspicion of androgen-secreting tumor

  • Extremely elevated testosterone level plus normal DHEAS level point toward ovarian source

  • Leydig cell tumor is extremely rare cause of hyperandrogenicity

Open access

S Vimalesvaran, S Narayanaswamy, L Yang, J K Prague, A Buckley, A D Miras, S Franks, K Meeran and W S Dhillo

Summary

Primary amenorrhoea is defined as the failure to commence menstruation by the age of 15 years, in the presence of normal secondary sexual development. The potential causes of primary amenorrhoea extend from structural to chromosomal abnormalities. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common cause of secondary amenorrhoea but an uncommon cause of primary amenorrhoea. An early and prompt diagnosis of PCOS is important, as up to 30% of these women are predisposed to glucose intolerance and obesity, with the subgroup of women presenting with primary amenorrhoea and PCOS displaying a higher incidence of metabolic dysfunction. We describe a case of an 18-year-old female presenting with primary amenorrhoea of unknown aetiology. Although initial investigations did not demonstrate clinical or biochemical hyperandrogenism or any radiological evidence of polycystic ovaries, a raised luteinising hormone (LH) suggested a diagnosis of PCOS. If PCOS was the correct diagnosis, then one would expect intact hypothalamic GnRH and pituitary gonadotropin release. We used the novel hormone kisspeptin to confirm intact hypothalamic GnRH release and a GnRH stimulation test to confirm intact pituitary gonadotroph function. This case highlights that kisspeptin is a potential unique tool to test GnRH function in patients presenting with reproductive disorders.

Learning points:

  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can present with primary amenorrhoea, and therefore, should be considered in the differential diagnosis.

  • PCOS is a heterogeneous condition that may present in lean women with few or absent signs of hyperandrogenism.

  • GnRH stimulation tests are useful in evaluating pituitary function; however, to date, we do not have a viable test of GnRH function. Kisspeptin has the potential to form a novel diagnostic tool for assessing hypothalamic GnRH function by monitoring gonadotropin response as a surrogate marker of GnRH release.

  • Confirmation of intact GnRH function helps consolidate a diagnosis in primary amenorrhoea and gives an indication of future fertility.

Open access

Christopher W Rowe, Kirsten Murray, Andrew Woods, Sandeep Gupta, Roger Smith and Katie Wynne

Metastatic thyroid cancer is an uncommon condition to be present at the time of pregnancy, but presents a challenging paradigm of care. Clinicians must balance the competing interests of long-term maternal health, best achieved by iatrogenic hyperthyroidism, regular radioiodine therapy and avoidance of dietary iodine, against the priority to care for the developing foetus, with inevitable compromise. Additionally, epidemiological and cellular data support the role of oestrogen as a growth factor for benign and malignant thyrocytes, although communicating the magnitude of this risk to patients and caregivers, as well as the uncertain impact of any pregnancy on long-term prognosis, remains challenging. Evidence to support treatment decisions in this uncommon situation is presented in the context of a case of a pregnant teenager with known metastatic papillary thyroid cancer and recent radioiodine therapy.

Learning points:

  • Pregnancy is associated with the growth of thyroid nodules due to stimulation from oestrogen receptors on thyrocytes and HCG cross-stimulation of the TSH receptor.

  • Thyroid cancer diagnosed during pregnancy has not been shown to be associated with increased rates of persistent or recurrent disease in most studies.

  • There is little evidence to guide the management of metastatic thyroid cancer in pregnancy, where both maternal and foetal wellbeing must be carefully balanced.

Open access

Anna Casteràs, Lídia Darder, Carles Zafon, Juan Antonio Hueto, Margarita Alberola, Enric Caubet and Jordi Mesa

Summary

Skeletal manifestations of primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT) include brown tumors (BT), which are osteoclastic focal lesions often localized in the jaws. Brown tumors are a rare manifestation of pHTP in Europe and USA; however, they are frequent in developing countries, probably related to vitamin D deficiency and longer duration and severity of disease. In the majority of cases, the removal of the parathyroid adenoma is enough for the bone to remineralize, but other cases require surgery. Hyperparathyroidism in MEN1 develops early, and is multiglandular and the timing of surgery remains questionable. To our knowledge, there are no reports of BT in MEN 1 patients. We present a 29-year-old woman with MEN 1 who developed a brown tumor of the jaw 24 months after getting pregnant, while breastfeeding. Serum corrected calcium remained under 2.7 during gestation, and at that point reached a maximum of 2.82 mmol/L. Concomitant PTH was 196 pg/mL, vitamin D 13.7 ng/mL and alkaline phosphatase 150 IU/L. Bone mineral density showed osteopenia on spine and femoral neck (both T-scores = −1.6). Total parathyroidectomy was performed within two weeks, with a failed glandular graft autotransplantation, leading to permanent hypoparathyroidism. Two months after removal of parathyroid glands, the jaw tumor did not shrink; thus, finally it was successfully excised. We hypothesize that higher vitamin D and mineral requirements during maternity may have triggered an accelerated bone resorption followed by appearance of the jaw BT. We suggest to treat pHPT before planning a pregnancy in MEN1 women or otherwise supplement with vitamin D, although this approach may precipitate severe hypercalcemia.

Learning points:

  • Brown tumors of the jaw can develop in MEN 1 patients with primary hyperparathyroidism at a young age (less than 30 years).

  • Pregnancy and lactation might trigger brown tumors by increasing mineral and vitamin D requirements.

  • Early parathyroidectomy is advisable in MEN 1 patients with primary hyperparathyroidism, at least before planning a pregnancy.

  • Standard bone mineral density does not correlate with the risk of appearance of a brown tumor.

  • Removal of parathyroid glands does not always lead to the shrinkage of the brown tumor, and surgical excision may be necessary.

Open access

Dimitrios Haidopoulos, George Bakolas and Lina Michala

Summary

Turner syndrome (TS) has been linked to a number of autoimmune conditions, including lichen sclerosus (LS), at an estimated prevalence of 17%. LS is a known precursor to vulvar cancer. We present a case of vulvar cancer in a 44-year-old woman, who had previously complained of pruritus in the area, a known symptom of LS. Histology confirmed a squamous cell carcinoma with underlying LS. Vulvar assessment for the presence of LS should be undertaken regularly as part of the routine assessments proposed for adult TS women. If LS is identified, then the patient should be warned of the increased risk of vulvar cancer progression and should be monitored closely for signs of the condition.

Learning points

  • Patients with TS are at increased risk of developing LS.

  • LS is a known precursor to vulvar cancer.

  • TS women with LS may be at risk of developing vulvar cancer and should be offered annual vulvar screening and also be aware of signs and symptoms of early vulvar cancer.