Why Was This Woman Gaining Weight Despite Her Diet?

“I just can’t seem to lose weight,” the 59-year-old woman said quietly. She had tried everything, she told the young doctor, who was training to be an endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Weight Watchers. Exercise. She ate more vegetables, less fat, then fewer carbs. But still she was gaining weight, 30 pounds during the past seven months, including 12 in the past two weeks. She had never been skinny, she continued, but shapely. In her mid-40s, she started gaining weight, slowly at first, then rapidly. She was considering bariatric surgery, but she wanted to make sure she wasn’t missing something obvious. She had low thyroid hormones and had to take medication. Could her thyroid be off again?

The doctor asked her about symptoms associated with a low thyroid-hormone level. Fatigue? Yes, she was always tired. Changes in her hair or skin? No. Constipation? No. Do you get cold easier? Never. Indeed, these days she usually felt hot and sweaty.

It was probably not the thyroid, the doctor said. She asked if the woman had any other medical problems. She had high blood pressure and high cholesterol — both well controlled with medications. She also had obstructive sleep apnea, a disorder in which the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapse during sleep, cutting off air flow and waking the person many times throughout the night. She had a machine that helped keep her airway open, and she used it every night. She also had back pain, knee pain and carpal-tunnel syndrome. The pain was so bad that she had to retire from her job years before she was ready.

Big, Bigger, Biggest

The doctor examined her, then went to get Dr. Donald Smith, an endocrinologist and director of lipids and metabolism at Mount Sinai’s cardiovascular institute. After hearing a summary of the case, Smith asked the patient if she had anything to add. She did: She didn’t understand why she was getting so much bigger. Her legs were huge. She used to have nice ankles, but now you could hardly see them. Her doctor had given her a diuretic, but it hadn’t done a thing. Everything was large — her feet, her hands, even her face seemed somehow bigger. She hardly recognized the woman in the mirror. Her doctors just encouraged her to keep trying to lose weight.

Worth a Thousand Words

“Let me show you a picture,” she said suddenly and reached over to her purse. The patient’s sister had made a comment recently that led the patient to wonder whether the changes she saw in the mirror were more than simple aging. The patient pulled out a photograph of an attractive middle-aged woman and handed it to Smith. That was me eight years ago, she told him. Looking at the two faces, it was hard to believe they belonged to the same woman. Smith suspected this was something more than the extra pounds.

Two possibilities came to mind. Each was a disease of hormonal excess; each caused rapid weight gain. The first was Cushing’s disease, caused by overproduction of one of the fight-or-flight hormones, cortisol. The doctor looked at the patient, seeking clues. On her upper back, just below her neck, the woman had a subtle area of enlargement. This discrete accumulation of fat, called a buffalo hump, can occur with normal weight gain but is frequently seen in patients with Cushing’s. Do you bruise more easily these days? he asked. Cushing’s makes the skin fragile. No, she said. Did she have stretch marks on her stomach from the weight gain? The rapid expansion of the abdomen can cause the fragile skin to develop dark purple stretch lines. No. So maybe it wasn’t Cushing’s.

Find out the answer at http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/04/17/magazine/17mag-diagnosis.html#/#7

Day 3: Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2016

me-tired

 

Sleep.  Naps.  Fatigue, Exhaustion.  I still have them all.  I wrote on my bio in 1987 after my pituitary surgery “I am still and always tired and need a nap most days. I do not, however, still need to take whole days off just to sleep.

That seems to be changing back, at least on the weekends.  A recent weekend, both days, I took 7-hour naps each day and I still woke up tired. That’s awfully close to taking a whole day off to sleep again.

 

 

 

In 2006, I flew to Chicago, IL for a Cushing’s weekend in Rockford.  Someone else drove us to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin for the day.  Too much travel, too Cushie, whatever, I was too tired to stay awake.  I actually had put my head down on the dining room table and fallen asleep but our hostess suggested the sofa instead.  Amazing that I traveled that whole distance – and missed the main event 😦

Sleeping in Rockford

This sleeping thing really impacts my life.  Between piano lessons, I take a nap.  I sleep as late as possible in the mornings and afternoons are pretty much taken up by naps.  I nod off at night during TV. One time I came home between church services and missed the third service because I fell asleep.

I only TiVo old tv shows that I can watch and fall asleep to since I already know the ending.

Since  mid-February, I have been doing physical therapy twice a week for 2 hours at a time for a knee injury (read more about that in Bees Knees).  I come home from that exhausted – and in more pain than I went.  I know it’s working and my knee is getting better, but it’s such a time and energy sapper.  Neither of which I can really spare.

Maybe now that I’m nearly 10  years out from my kidney cancer (May 9, 2006) I could theoretically go back on Growth Hormone again.  My surgeon says he “thinks” it’s ok.  I’m sort of afraid to ask my endo about it, though.  I want to feel better and get the benefits of the GH again but I don’t want any type of cancer again and I certainly can’t afford to lose another kidney.

I’ll probably just muddle through without it.  I always laugh when I see that commercial online for something called Serovital.  I saw it in Costco the other day and it mentions pituitary right on the package.  I wish I could take the people buying this, sit them down and tell them not to mess with their pituitary glands.  But I won’t.  I’ll take a nap instead because I’m feeling so old and weary today, and yesterday.

And tomorrow…

Day 1: Cushing’s Awareness Challenge 2016

April is always Cushing’s Awareness Challenge month because Dr. Harvey Cushing was born on April 8th, 1869.

30-posts

Thanks to Robin for this wonderful past logo!  I’ve participated in these 30 days for Cushing’s Awareness several times so I’m not quite sure what is left to say this year but I always want to get the word out when I can.

As I see it, there have been some strides the diagnosis or treatment of Cushing’s since last year.  More drug companies are getting involved, more doctors seem to be willing to test, a bit more awareness, maybe.


April Fool's Day

How fitting that this challenge should begin on April Fool’s Day.  So much of Cushing’s  Syndrome/Disease makes us Cushies seem like we’re the April Fool.  Maybe, just maybe, it’s the doctors who are the April Fools…

Doctors tell us Cushing’s is too rare – you couldn’t possibly have it.  April Fools!

All you have to do is exercise and diet.  You’ll feel better.  April Fools!

Those bruises on your legs?  You’re just clumsy. April Fools!

Sorry you’re growing all that hair on your chin.  That happens as you age, you know.  April Fools!

Did you say you sleep all day?  You’re just lazy.  If you exercised more, you’d have more energy. April Fools!

You don’t have stretch marks.  April Fools!

You have stretch marks but they are the wrong [color/length/direction] April Fools!

The hump on the back of your neck is from your poor posture. April Fools!

Your MRI didn’t show a tumor.  You couldn’t have Cushing’s. April Fools!

This is all in your mind.  Take this prescription for antidepressants and go home.  April Fools!

If you have this one surgery, your life will get back to normal within a few months. April Fools!

What?  You had transsphenoidal surgery for Cushing’s?  You wasted your time and money. April Fools!

I am the doctor.  I know everything.  Do not try to find out any information online. You could not have Cushing’s.  It’s too rare…  April FOOL!

All this reminds me of a wonderful video a message board member posted a while ago:

So now – who is the April Fool?  It wasn’t me.  Don’t let it be you, either!

Pituitary Incidentaloma Treatment Guideline

0276f-pituitary-gland

 

It is unclear how many people have pituitary incidentaloma, but imaging and autopsy studies indicate they are quite common and occur in up to one-third of patients. Fortunately, the vast majority of these serendipitously discovered tumors are clinically insignificant.

A management guideline in the Annals of Endocrinology brings endocrinologists up to date on current thinking about pituitary incidentaloma management.   Endocrinologists classify these tumors as micro- or macro-. Microincidentalomas are discovered in around 10% of patients, often upon CT after a fall, and are less than 1 cm in diameter. They may grow, but only 5% proceed to macroincidentaloma.

Currently, experts recommend assessing nonfunctioning (NF) microincidentaloma clinically for signs of hypersecretion (hyperprolactinemia, acromegaly or Cushing’s syndrome), with subsequent systematic prolactin and IGF-1 assay.   Pituitary incidentalomas that are larger than 1 cm at discovery—macroincidentalomas—are more likely to grow, with 25% and 24%-40% of patients having larger tumors at 4 and 8 years after diagnosis respectively.

Concerns escalate and closer surveillance is needed if a macroadenoma is in contact with the optic chiasm. With any NF macroincidentaloma, experts recommend assessing patients for signs of hormonal hypersecretion or hypopituitarism. Then, laboratory screening for hypersecretion or hormonal deficiency is needed, as is ophthalmologic assessment (visual acuity and visual field) if the lesion is near the optic chiasm (OC).   Surveillance differs by tumor size, with 5 mm the cutoff for NF microincidentaloma.

Tumors smaller than that require no surveillance, and those larger need to be monitored with MRI at 6 months and then 2 years. Endocrinologists should revisit macroincidentaloma distant from the optic chiasm with MRI at 1 year and conduct hormonal exploration (for anterior pituitary deficiency), then monitor every 2 years.   Proximity to the optic chiasm often creates a need for surgery or increased vigilance. MRI is recommended at 6 months, with hormonal and visual assessment, then annual MRI and hormonal and visual assessment every 6 months.

Specific types of pituitary incidentaloma call for surgery: evolutive NF microincidentaloma, NF macroincidentaloma associated with hypopituitarism or showing progression, incidentaloma compressing the optic chiasm, possible malignancy, non-compliant patient, pregnancy desired in the short-term, or context at risk of apoplexy.

Few guidelines are published for pituitary incidentaloma, and this one is enhanced with a decision tree that walks endocrinologist through the recommendations. –

See more at: http://www.hcplive.com/medical-news/pituitary-incidentaloma-treatment-guideline#sthash.0DqxeTru.dpuf

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

%d bloggers like this: