Steroid Medication for Nasal Obstruction in Infants May Cause Cushing’s Syndrome

Intranasal steroid drops used to treat nasal obstruction may cause Cushing’s syndrome and adrenal insufficiency in infants, a case study of two patients suggests.

The study, “Iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome and adrenal insufficiency in infants on intranasal dexamethasone drops for nasal obstruction – Case series and literature review,” was published in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology.

Children with nasal obstruction may have severe delays in development and can face life-threatening complications later in life such as obstructive sleep apnea and cardiopulmonary problems.

While intranasal steroid drops have become increasingly popular as a substitute for surgery, they can have adverse effects. In addition to suppressing the immune system and changing metabolism, high levels of corticosteroids in the blood may cause Cushing’s syndrome.

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College presented two cases of adrenal gland insufficiency and Cushing’s syndrome caused by intranasal dexamethasone drops. Dexamethasone is a type of corticosteroid medication.

First, they described the case of a 3-month-old boy who was taken to the hospital following a life-threatening episode at home after feeding. A physical evaluation revealed nasal congestion with no additional anatomic abnormalities.

Treatment with nasal dexamethasone drops three times a day improved his breathing. While the dosage was later decreased to three drops once daily, a congestion episode led the mother to increase the dose back to the initial recommendation.

After seven weeks of treatment, the boy was noted to have facial puffiness, leading to an endocrine evaluation that revealed low cortisol levels. The dose was eventually reduced, and the boy’s cortisol levels returned to normal after several months.

The second case was a 6-week-old boy with a history of chronic congestion and difficulty feeding. He had severe nasal obstruction and required intubation due to respiratory distress. A nasal exam revealed damaged mucosa with severe nasal cavity narrowing, and he began treatment with three ciprofloxacin-dexamethasone drops three times a day.

After two and a half weeks of treatment, the boy’s cortisol levels were considerably low, and adrenal insufficiency was diagnosed. The treatment dose was reduced in an attempt to improve cortisol levels, but nasal obstruction symptoms continued.

The child then underwent surgery to resolve his nasal obstruction, and the treatment with steroid drops was discontinued. While his cortisol levels subsequently improved, they continued to be low, suggesting that he may have a hormone-related disease.

Despite the benefits of steroid-based nasal drops, small infants are more sensitive to steroid compounds. In addition, nasal drops are more easily absorbed than nasal sprays, suggesting that infants taking these medications should be better controlled for side effects.

“Patients started on this therapy must be closely monitored in a multi-disciplinary fashion to ensure patient safety and optimal symptom resolution,” the researchers suggested.


Study Examines Therapy Options for Post-adrenalectomy Low Glucocorticoid Levels

Hydrocortisone and prednisone have comparable safety and effectiveness when used as glucocorticoid replacement therapy in patients with adrenal adenoma or Cushing’s disease who underwent adrenalectomy, a new study shows.

The study, “Comparison of hydrocortisone and prednisone in the glucocorticoid replacement therapy post-adrenalectomy of Cushing’s Syndrome,” was published in the journal Oncotarget.

The symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome are related to excessive levels of glucocorticoids in our body. Glucocorticoids are a type of steroid hormones produced by the adrenal gland. Consequently, a procedure called adrenalectomy – removal of the adrenal glands – is usually conducted in patients with Cushing’s syndrome.

Unfortunately, adrenalectomy leads to a sharp drop in hormones that are necessary for our bodies. So, post-adrenalectomy glucocorticoid replacement therapy is required for patients.

Hydrocortisone and prednisone are synthetic glucocorticoids that most often are used for glucocorticoid replacement therapy.

Treatment with either hydrocortisone or prednisone has proven effective in patients with Cushing’s syndrome. However, few studies have compared the two treatments directly to determine if there are significant advantages of one therapy over another.

Chinese researchers set out to compare the effectiveness and safety of hydrocortisone and prednisone treatments in patients with Cushing’s syndrome, up to six months after undergoing adrenalectomy.

Patients were treated with either hydrocortisone or prednisone starting at day two post-adrenalectomy. The withdrawal schedule varied by individual patients.

At baseline, both groups had similar responses to the adrenalectomy, including the correction of hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels), and hypokalemia (low potassium levels). Furthermore, most patients in both groups lost weight and showed significant improvement, as judged by a subjective evaluation questionnaire.

Hydrocortisone did show a significant advantage over prednisone in the improvement of liver function, but its use also was associated with significant swelling of the lower extremities, as compared to prednisone.

Patients in both groups went on to develop adrenal insufficiency (AI) during glucocorticoid withdrawal. However, there were no significant differences in the AI incidence rate – 35 percent in the hydrocortisone group versus 45 percent in the prednisone group. The severity of A also was not significantly different between the groups.

Furthermore, most of the AI symptoms were relieved by going back to the initial doses of the glucocorticoid replacement.

As there were no significant differences between the two treatments, the findings support “the use of both hydrocortisone and prednisone in the glucocorticoid replacement therapy post-adrenalectomy for patients of adrenal adenoma or Cushing’s disease,” researchers concluded.


Cushing Patients Could Be Diagnosed, Subtyped Using Plasma Steroid Levels

Patients with different subtypes of Cushing’s syndrome (CS) have distinct plasma steroid profiles. This could be used as a test for diagnosis and classification, a German study says.

The study, “Plasma Steroid Metabolome for Diagnosis and Subtyping Patients with Cushing Syndrome,” appeared in the journal Clinical Chemistry.

A quick diagnosis of CS is crucial so that doctors can promptly give therapy. However, diagnosing CS is often complicated by the multiple tests necessary not just to diagnose the disease but also to determine its particular subtype.

Cortisol, which leads to CS when produced at high levels, is a steroid hormone. But while earlier studies were conducted to determine whether patients with different subtypes of CS had distinct steroid profiles, the methods researchers used were cumbersome and have been discontinued for routine use.

Recently, a technique called LC-MS/MS has emerged for multi-steroid profiling in patients with adrenocortical dysfunction such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, adrenal insufficiency and primary aldosteronism.

Researchers at Germany’s Technische Universität in Dresden used that method to determine whether patients with the three main subtypes of CS (pituitary, ectopic and adrenal) showed differences in plasma steroid profiles. They measured levels of 15 steroids produced by the adrenal glands in single plasma samples collected from 84 patients with confirmed CS and 227 age-matched controls.

They found that CS patients saw huge increases in the plasma steroid levels of 11-deoxycortisol (289%), 21-deoxycortisol (150%), 11-deoxycorticosterone (133%), corticosterone (124%) and cortisol (122%), compared to patients without the disease.

Patients with the ectopic subtype had the biggest jumps in levels of these steroids. However, plasma 18-oxocortisol levels were particularly low in ectopic disease. Other steroids demonstrated considerable variation.

Patients with the adrenal subtype had the lowest concentration of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and DHEA-SO4, which are androgens. Patients with the ectopic and pituitary subtype had the lowest concentration of aldosterone.

Through the use of 10 selected steroids, patients with different subtypes of CS could be identified almost as closely as with other tests, including the salivary and urinary free cortisol test, the dexamethasone-suppressed cortisol test, and plasma adrenocorticotropin levels. The misclassification rate using steroid levels was 9.5 percent, compared to 5.8 percent in other tests.

“This study using simultaneous LC-MS/MS measurements of 15 adrenal steroids in plasma establishes distinct steroid metabolome profiles that might be useful as a test for CS,” the team concluded, adding that using LC-MS/MS is advantageous, as specimen preparation is simple and the entire panel takes 12 minutes to run. This means it could be offered as a single test for both identification and subtype classification.


Yes, You Need a Medical Alert Bracelet!

Shared with permission from

Advice from a Volunteer Firefighter with Adrenal Insufficiency

My name is Jeannie, and I have been diagnosed with Secondary AI since March of 2015. To make a long story short, I was diagnosed with a pituitary adenoma in Feb of 2015. It was apron 8mm x 10mm at the time wit was found. On April 25th, 2015 I was getting ready for work in the early morning hours.. I passed out in my bathroom and was immediately rushed to the hospital by my husband. They did a secondary MRI and found that the tumor had tripled in size to 23mm x almost 41mm. My Cortisol was also so low it was undetectable by the lab. I was taken by ambulance to Emory University hospital in Atlanta where the Neurosurgeon I had been in consult with was. I arrived there on Sunday and was in Surgery Wednesday Morning. The surgery took 9 hours and recovery was close to 6.

Prior to this all taking place I was a volunteer firefighter, and had worked EMS for almost 16 years. I have been in nearly every situation possible. I see so many people that have our condition asking about Medic Alert bracelets, What kind they should have, what it should say on it, etc. So I have put together a short list to help out a little bit. This is coming from both someone who has this extremely rare disease, and also from the Emergency Medical Side of me. Knowing what We as medics look for in the field, How quickly things move, what we ask or need to know, etc.

Please know that this IS NOT Professional Medical advice, But this is advice coming from someone who can shed some light on how to potentially save your life if you should ever be alone, or without anyone who knows your condition and you fall unconscious or are unable to the the responders what your condition is.

First off if you are looking for a medic alert bracelet or wondering if you should get one.

**The answer is yes, If you have been diagnosed ANY TYPE of adrenal insufficient or are on replacement medication.. YES. you need one.**

Here are some of those reasons and some pointers on what they should look like / what they should say.

#1– If you are found unconscious, and there are not bystanders around to tell emergency crews what is wrong with you, You will go longer without your steroids. If we see on your bracelet that you are steroid dependent, it dissolves the ENTIRE guessing game of why you’re unconscious.

#2– It should have on there your emergency contact and a GOOD telephone number. That way if nothing else. We can call them. NOT EVERY EMS AGENCY HAS ACCESS TO THE “CLOUD” BASED SYSTEMS THAT STORE YOUR INFO. Please be sure that if your emergency contacts number changes.. You change it on your bracelet. There is nothing worse than wasted time calling a number that doesn’t belong to the person we NEED to talk to.

#3– DO NOT MAKE IT “PRETTY” OR “NOT SO OBVIOUS”. I can not stress this enough. Ladies I know that you want the cute ones that look like normal bracelets, and have pretty charms, etc on them… THE ENTIRE point of a medical alert bracelet is that someone needs to see it and know that they should look at it. If it looks like a regular bracelet or regular necklace and it isn’t obvious within the first 3 seconds once we get to you and look in the obvious places (neck/wrist). it will NOT get seen. I promise you, we are too busy trying to play the guessing game of why you are not responding, than to take a look at every single piece of regular jewelry and see if it might have a really small inscribing of what is wrong with you. Once again. Make it noticeable. We will see that we need to look at it. Once we do. The guessing game is more than likely OVER. and we can begin to treat you appropriately.

#4– Most EMT’s and Paramedics Don’t Understand or know about Addisons or the treatment involved. If nothing else, carry a letter from your doctor explaining what is wrong with you, etc. It is very rare, and NOT covered in most Paramedic courses. So please, for those of you that put “ADRENAL INSUFFICIENT” on your bracelet and NOT “STEROID DEPENDENT” please keep in mind that you may end up with the Paramedic that just graduated, is nervous, and will mistake adrenal insufficiency for Adrenaline insufficiency.. and try to give you epinephrine. Please understand that I have seen this almost happen. It is something that is easily misunderstood in the heat of the moment.

#5– If you have an emergency injection that you carry with you all the time, on your person, or somewhere close. PUT ON THERE THAT YOU HAVE IT! MOST ems agencies have standing protocol that they can assist with emergency medications (Don’t jump in here if you are one of those states that doesn’t allow it.. I said most) That way if we find you down, and look at your bracelet, AND see that you have emergency meds with you… guess what now, not only is the guessing game over, You’re ALSO getting the RIGHT EMERGENCY MEDS, instead of us having to either give you what we carry, or you having to wait until you get to the ER and the ER doc has to go through your file and figure out that you need the medication that’s been in your pocketbook the ENTIRE TIME.If you are unsure if your state allows this, or if you Local EMS agency can do this. Contact their local medical control and ask. If they do, Please offer to give a small talk on what the disease is and how to use the emergency kit. Most will know once they see the acto-vial, but if they do not, Please educate them. Explain to them that it can be the only thing that could save your life.

Please take the time and make sure that you have correct information on your bracelet. Secondary or Primary, the treatment in an Emergency situation is the same. So there is NO need for you to spell out if you are secondary or primary. Both get the emergency injection in case of a crisis. Both get fluid bolus, heart and blood pressure monitoring. Nothing is different when it comes to an emergency situation. If you have any questions on the wording or what to get on it. Be sure you at least have an emergency contact, That you are steroid dependent, and where your emergency injection is located.

IF you know that your local EMS agency uses the “cloud” for stored emergency info, you can spend the money to get it. But I worked for service that covered a county with over 100 sq miles, and we didn’t use it. It is unreliable and takes too much time to log in to the system, try to read the small number on your band, type it in, etc. When you can simply put the information on the band itself.

If you have any other further questions, You can refer to AIU’s emergency page.

Primary Adrenal Insufficiency (PAI)

 Al-Jurayyan NA
Background: Primary adrenal insufficiency (PAI) in children is an uncommon, but potentially fatal. The current symptoms include weakness, fatigue, anorexia, abdominal pain, weight loss, orthostatic hypotension, salt craving and characterized by hyperpigmentation.
Material and Methods: This is a retrospective, hospital based-study, conducted at King Khalid University Hospital (KKUH), during the period January 1989 and December 2014. Review of medical record of patient diagnosed with primary adrenal insufficiency. The diagnosis was based on medical history, physical examination and low levels of glucocorticoids and raised adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Appropriate laboratory and radiological investigations were also reviewed.
Results: During the period under review, January 1989 and December 2014, a total of 125 patients with the diagnosis of primary adrenal insufficiency were seen. Inherited disorders like congenital adrenal hyperplasia and hypoplasia were common, 85.5%. However, variable autoimmune mediated etiologic diagnosis accounted for, 13%, were also seen. The appropriate various laboratory and radiological investigations should be planned.
Conclusion: Although, congenital adrenal hyperplasia was the commonest etiology, however, congenital adrenal hypoplasia should not be over looked. The diagnosis of PAI can be challenging in some patients, and therefore appropriate serological and radiological investigations should be done.
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