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Open access

Nam Quang Tran, Chien Cong Phan, Tran Bao Vuong, Thang Viet Tran, and Phat Tung Ma


Mitochondrial diseases are a group of rare diseases presenting with heterogeneous clinical, biochemical, and genetic disorders caused by mutations in the mitochondrial or nuclear genome. Multiple organs can be affected, particularly those with high energy demand. Diabetes is a common endocrine manifestation of mitochondrial diseases. The onset of mitochondrial diabetes can be latent or acute, and the presenting phenotype can be type 1- or type 2-like. Studies show that diabetes ais associated with latent progression of cognitive decline in patients with mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes (MELAS) syndrome. Herein, we report a case of rapid cognitive decline after the acute onset of diabetes in a patient with MELAS syndrome. The patient was a 36-year-old woman who was hospitalized due to hyperglycemic crisis and seizures. She was diagnosed with MELAS syndrome two years previously, and had gradually progressing dementia and hearing loss. However, following the acute onset of diabetes, she developed rapid cognitive decline and loss of ability to perform daily activities. In conclusion, the acute onset of diabetes could be an associated risk factor for rapid cognitive decline in patients with MELAS syndrome. Thus, these patients as well as healthy carriers with related genetic mutations should undergo diabetes education and screening tests. Moreover, clinicians should be aware of the possibility for acute onset of hyperglycemic crisis, particularly in the presence of triggering factors.

Learning points

  • Diabetes is a common endocrine manifestation of mitochondrial diseases, presenting with a type 1- or type 2-like phenotype depending on the level of insulinopenia.

  • Metformin should be avoided in patients with mitochondrial diseases to prevent metformin-induced lactic acidosis.

  • Mitochondrial diabetes can manifest before or after the onset of MELAS syndrome.

  • In patients with MELAS syndrome, diabetes can initially manifest with a life-threatening severe hyperglycemic crisis and can cause rapid cognitive decline.

  • Diabetes screening tests (e.g. hemoglobin A1c, oral glucose tolerance test, or random blood glucose level measurement) should be performed either systematically or in the presence of symptoms, particularly after triggering events.

  • Genetic testing and counseling should be provided to patients and their families for the purpose of better understanding the inheritance, progression, and possible outcomes of the disease.

Open access

Nam Quang Tran, Chien Cong Phan, Thao Thi Phuong Doan, and Thang Viet Tran


Primary adrenal insufficiency is a rare disease and can masquerade as other conditions; therefore, it is sometimes incorrectly diagnosed. Herein, we reported the case of a 39-year-old Vietnamese male with primary adrenal insufficiency due to bilateral adrenal tuberculosis. The patient presented to the emergency room with acute adrenal crisis and a 3-day history of nausea, vomiting, epigastric pain, and diarrhoea with a background of 6 months of fatigue, weight loss, and anorexia. Abdominal CT revealed bilateral adrenal masses. Biochemically, unequivocal low morning plasma cortisol (<83 nmol/L) and high plasma adrenocorticotropic hormone levels were consistent with primary adrenal insufficiency. There was no evidence of malignancy or lymphoma. As the patient was from a tuberculosis-endemic area, extra-adrenal tuberculosis was excluded during the work up. A retroperitoneal laparoscopic left adrenalectomy was performed, and tuberculous adrenalitis was confirmed by the histopathological results. The patient was started on antituberculous therapy, in addition to glucocorticoid replacement. In conclusion, even without evidence of extra-adrenal tuberculosis, a diagnosis of bilateral adrenal tuberculosis is required. A histopathological examination has a significant role along with clinical judgement and hormonal workup in establishing a definitive diagnosis of adrenal tuberculosis without evidence of active extra-adrenal involvement.

Learning points

  • Primary adrenal insufficiency can be misdiagnosed as other mimicking diseases, such as gastrointestinal illness, leading to diagnostic pitfalls.

  • Adrenal insufficiency can be confirmed with significantly low morning plasma cortisol levels of <83 nmol/L without a dynamic short cosyntropin stimulation test.

  • Tuberculous adrenalitis is an uncommon treatable condition; however, it remains an important cause of primary adrenal insufficiency, especially in developing countries. In the absence of extra-adrenal involvement, adrenal biopsy plays a key role in the diagnostic process. Alternatively, adrenalectomy for histopathological purposes should be considered if CT scan-guided fine needle aspiration is infeasible in cases of small adrenal masses.