Given Adrenal Symptoms, Blood Test Recommended

adrenal-glands

 

Q: My husband’s recent CT scan of his stomach and digestive system revealed that he has nodules on both adrenal glands. It was suggested that he undergo a blood test to determine whether the nodules are producing hormones.

For 21 months, he has experienced high blood pressure, nausea, diarrhea, anxiety and abdominal pain. Could this be the source of his problems? If so, what course of action would you recommend?

A: The adrenal gland is responsible for the production of several essential hormones.

Tumors, or nodules, of the adrenal glands are common. They can be categorized into those that make hormones and those that don’t, and also by whether the tumors are benign or malignant.

The most common, by far, are benign, nonfunctioning tumors. These are usually discovered on an ultrasound or a CT scan obtained for some other reason.

More than 4 percent of people have an adrenal mass, and 85 percent are nonfunctional.

The symptoms that your husband has, however, raise a concern that he might have a hormone-producing tumor.

Four types of hormones are commonly produced by adrenal tumors: cortisone, aldosterone, sex hormones (estrogen or androgens) and catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine).

A cortisone-producing adrenal tumor causes Cushing’s syndrome. It usually causes weight gain, especially in the abdomen; skin changes, including striae, or “stretch marks”; high blood pressure; and a predisposition to diabetes. Anxiety and abdominal pain are uncommon.

Aldosterone raises blood pressure, so a person with a functioning adrenal tumor making aldosterone usually has high blood pressure, but the other symptoms you mention for your husband aren’t common for this type of tumor.

Adrenal tumors that make epinephrine and the related norepinephrine are called pheochromocytomas. Hypertension is almost universal with this condition, and anxiety is frequently reported.

Tumors that produce sex hormones are rare, and they are present in men with androgen excess or feminization, in the case of estrogen-secreting tumors.

Although your husband’s symptoms aren’t specific for any one condition, the combination of his symptoms and adrenal nodules concerns me.

I agree with the recommendation to look for excess amounts of hormones in the blood. This can often be achieved with a simple blood test; however, a catheter is occasionally placed in the adrenal vein to sample blood coming from the gland (and its nodule) directly.

By comparing one side against the other, doctors can determine which side might be producing excess hormones.

An endocrinologist is the expert most likely to be familiar with these conditions.

Dr. Roach answers letters only in his North America Syndicate column but provides an order form of available health newsletters at http://www.rbmamail.com. Write him at 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32853-6475; or ToYour GoodHealth@med. cornell.edu.

From http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/life_and_entertainment/2015/07/27/given-adrenal-symptoms-blood-test-recommended.html

Narrowing in on Pituitary Tumors

0276f-pituitary-gland

 

As many as 20 percent of people may have a benign cyst or tumor in their pituitary gland. The vast majority of pituitary tumors are noncancerous, but can cause headaches and profound fatigue, and can also disrupt hormone function.

Currently, surgeons rely on radiologic images and MRIs to gather information about the size and shape of the tumor, but the resolution of such imaging technologies is limited, and additional surgeries to remove more of the tumor may be needed if a patient’s symptoms persist. In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on July 27, investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) present a new technique that could help surgeons more precisely define the locations of tumors in near real-time.

The new strategy uses a visualization technique (matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging – MALDI MSI) that can analyze specific hormones, including growth hormone and prolactin, in tissue. In the newly published study, the researchers find that it’s possible to use MALDI MSI to determine the composition of such hormones in a pituitary sample in less than 30 minutes. This could give surgeons critical information to help distinguish tumor from normal gland.

“Our work is driven by a clinical need: we’ve developed a test specifically tailored for the needs of our neurosurgeon colleagues,” said corresponding author Nathalie Agar, PhD, director of the Surgical Molecular Imaging Laboratory in the Department of Neurosurgery at BWH. “A surgeon may sacrifice half of the pituitary gland in an effort to get the tumor out. Without a tool to distinguish healthy tissue from tumor, it’s hard to know in real-time if the surgery was a success. With this technology, in under 30 minutes a surgeon will be able to know if a sample contains normal pituitary tissue or a pituitary tumor.”

“Patients show up with the clinical symptoms of a pituitary tumor, but the tumor itself may not be visible on an MRI,” said co-author Edward Laws, MD, director of the Pituitary and Neuroendocrine Center at BWH. “This technique, which maps out where excess concentrations of hormone levels are located, has the potential to allow us to confirm that we’ve removed the abnormal tissue.”

“Evaluating whether a piece of pituitary tissue is abnormal can be challenging on frozen section,” said co-author Sandro Santagata, MD, PhD, of BWH’s Department of Pathology. “This approach has wonderful potential for enhancing our diagnostic capabilities. It is clearly an important step toward providing intra-operative molecular characterization of pituitary tissues.”

To test the technique, the research team analyzed hormone levels in 45 pituitary tumors and six normal pituitary gland samples, finding a distinct protein signature unique to the normal or tumor sample.

Mass spectrometry, a technique for measuring chemicals present in a sample, is currently used in the operating room to help inform clinical decisions, but up until now, the focus has been on small molecules – metabolites, fatty acids and lipids – using a different type of approach. By analyzing proteins, MALDI MSI offers a way to visualize hormone levels.

Current methods used to detect hormone levels take too long to fit the time constraints of surgical intervention. Surgeons must either remove a larger amount of potentially healthy pituitary gland or perform follow up surgery if the tumor has not been fully removed.

“We’re hoping that techniques like this one will help move the field toward more precise surgery: surgery that not only removes all of the tumor but also preserves the healthy tissue as much as possible,” said Agar.

In the next phase of their work, Agar and her colleagues plan to test out the technique in BWH’s AMIGO suite and analyze the impact of the technique on clinical decision making.

Other researchers who contributed to this study include David Calligaris, Daniel R. Feldman, Isaiah Norton, Olutayo Olubiyi, Armen N. Changelian, Revaz Machaidze, Matthew L. Vestal and Ian F. Dunn.

This work was funded in part by US National Institute of Health (NIH) Director’s New Innovator Award (1DP2OD007383-01 to N.Y.R.A.), U.S. Army Medical Research/CIMIT (2010A052245), the National Center for Image Guided Therapy grant P41RR019703, NIH K08NS064168, the Pediatric Low Grade Astrocytoma Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, the Brain Science Foundation and the Daniel E. Ponton fund for the Neurosciences at BWH.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital 2015 | 75 Francis Street, Boston MA 02115 | 617-732-5500

From http://www.healthcanal.com/cancers/65676-narrowing-in-on-pituitary-tumors.html

Hydrocortisone Replacement Patient Information

steroids
Patient Information

What is Hydrocortisone?
Hydrocortisone is a steriod hormone produced by the adrenal gland.  It regulates many of the bodies functions and is essential for life.
Hydrocortisone is taken as a replacement for the natural hormone where this is deficient, either because of pituitary deficieny of ACTH (the hormone that stimulates the production of hydrocortisone by the adrenal gland) or failure of hydrocortisone production by the adrenal gland.

How do I take it?
A common dose is 15-20mg orally split over two or three times daily, and depending on your individual Endocrinologist’s recommendations, e.g., 10mg before rising, 5mg at mid-day and 5mg at 4 p.m.

When would I need to take more hydrocortisone?

If you become ill then the body would naturally increase the output of steroid from your adrenals.  Therefore if you are taking replacement steroid (hydrocortisone) it is essential to mimic the natural response by increasing your dose appropriately.

How can I let others know I take replacement hydrocortisone?
When you are prescribed your medication you will be given a ‘blue steroid card’ from the hospital to carry.  You should also purchase and wear a medical necklace or bracelet, such as MedicAlert, to show your Cortisol replacement therapy.

Emergency Injections – should I have these at home?
It is advisable for all patients on hydrocortisone replacement to have a 100mg injection pack at home and for them or their partners to be taught how to administer it.  If you don’t have one of these already, you can ask your GP or endocrinologist if they will prescribe this for you.  Please check regularly that these preparations are not expired.  Some endocrine clinics will help to show you how to inject in an emergency.

When do I know that I would need an emergency injection?

If you cannot absorb your tablets, or your usual replacement wasn’t sufficient for an acute shock or illness, then gradually or perhaps quite quickly you would feel weak, sickly and light-headed.

Recommendations for changes in oral dose ‘The Sick Rules’
If you become unwell you should take additional hydrocortisone. The amount depends on how unwell you are and the type of illness. The pituitary foundation provides some sensible examples:

If a patient is unwell they should take additional hydrocortisone. The amount depends on how unwell they are and the type of illness. Some examples:

Situtation  Increase in dose Duration  Emergency?
Cold without fever   none
Fever, flu, infection         double dose duration of illness see GP after 48 hours
Vomiting > once, diarrhoea and severe illness Emergency 100mg injection if extra dose of 10-20mg cannot be kept down restart usual dose once stable Phone GP or go to A&E. Administer injection prior to this if emergency pack available (but still seek help)
Minor surgical procedure e.g. tooth extraction     20mg hydrocortisone before procedure resume on usual dose immediately afterward
Minor operation e.g. hernia repair  100mg im every 6 hours for 24 hours  resume on usual dose immediately afterward
Major operation e.g. abdomen or chest 100mg im injection every 6 hours for 24 -72 hours and eating and drinking reduce rapidly to usual dose tell the surgeon and anaesthetist before the operation
Endoscopy Double the dose the day before during bowel prep. For colonoscopy 100mg im before procedure take usual dose on the morning of the procedure drink lots of water to prevent dehydration. Inform your doctor.
Cystoscopy Double dose on the day of procedure. resume as normal inform your doctor.
Severe shock e.g. bereavment or road traffic accident 20mg as tablet or 100mg intramuscular injection See GP or hospital for further advice Sudden and severe shock may be classed as an emergency – seek advice
Long haul flight > 12 hours double dose on the day of the flight extra dose every 6-8 hours when the day is legnthened. Usual regimen in timing with sleep / wake cycle when day is shortened. Speak to your consultant before travel.
General stress, exams etc  not usually required ask GP if concerned

How do I cope if I’m travelling away from home?

You should travel with a 100mg injection kit  in case of emergency.  This injection should be placed in a small cool bag, labelled with your name and kept with you at all times during your journey. You should ask your GP or endocrinologist for a letter about your injection kit, medication and your doses prescribed.  This letter is essential to travel through security checks and will be helpful should you become unwell and have to see a doctor. It is wise to take an extra two weeks supply of hydrocortisone tablets with you in case you need to increase your usual dose whilst away.  All medication should be kept in your hand luggage.

Printable patient information

From http://www.imperialendo.com/for-doctors/hydrocortisone-replacement/hydrocortisone-replacement-patient-information

Hair Analysis Provides a Historical Record of Cortisol Levels in Cushing’s Syndrome

Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2010 Sep 24.
Published in final edited form as:
PMCID: PMC2945912
NIHMSID: NIHMS235640
Hair Analysis Provides a Historical Record of Cortisol Levels in Cushing’s Syndrome

Abstract

The severity of Cushing’s Syndrome (CS) depends on the duration and extent of the exposure to excess glucocorticoids. Current measurements of cortisol in serum, saliva and urine reflect systemic cortisol levels at the time of sample collection, but cannot assess past cortisol levels. Hair cortisol levels may be increased in patients with CS, and, as hair grows about 1 cm/month, measurement of hair cortisol may provide historical information on the development of hypercortisolism.

We attempted to measure cortisol in hair in relation to clinical course in six female patients with CS and in 32 healthy volunteers in 1 cm hair sections. Hair cortisol content was measured using a commercially available salivary cortisol immune assay with a protocol modified for use with hair.

Hair cortisol levels were higher in patients with CS than in controls, the medians (ranges) were 679 (279–2500) and 116 (26–204) ng/g respectively (P <0.001). Segmental hair analysis provided information for up to 18 months before time of sampling. Hair cortisol concentrations appeared to vary in accordance with the clinical course.

Based on these data, we suggest that hair cortisol measurement is a novel method for assessing dynamic systemic cortisol exposure and provides unique historical information on variation in cortisol, and that more research is required to fully understand the utility and limits of this technique.

Keywords: glucocorticoids, pituitary adenoma, cancer, adrenal gland, hormones, cushing hair

Cushing’s Help is 15 Today!

happybirthday-2015

 

It’s unbelievable but the idea for Cushing’s Help and Support arrived 15 years ago last night.

I was talking with my dear friend Alice, who ran a wonderful menopause site called Power Surge, wondering why there weren’t many support groups online (OR off!) for Cushing’s and I wondered if I could start one myself and we decided that I could.

The first website (http://www.cushings-help.com) first went “live” July 21, 2000 and the message boards September 30, 2000. Hopefully, with these sites, I’m going to make some helpful differences in someone else’s life!

The message boards are very active and we have weekly online text chats, weekly live interviews, local meetings, email newsletters, a clothing exchange, a Cushing’s Awareness Day Forum, podcasts, phone support and much more.

Whenever one of the members of the boards gets into NIH, I try to go to visit them there. Other board members participate in the “Cushie Helper” program where they support others with one-on-one support, doctor/hospital visits, transportation issues and more.

 

maryo colorful zebra

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