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Eur J Med Res. 2001 Jan 29;6(1):21-6.

32-year old patient presenting with autoimmune polyglandular syndrome.

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  • 1Medical Clinic III, Department of Gastroenterology and Metabolic Diseases, University of Aachen, Germany.


A 32-year-old student reported fatigue and malaise since two months in the absence of specific symptoms. Clinical examination and extensive laboratory testing revealed no abnormalities at his first presentation. Some weeks thereafter, on re-admission, hyperpigmentation suggestive of Addison's disease was observed and pathognomonic autoantibodies directed against the thyroid gland and the adrenal cortex were detected. Further evaluation led to the diagnosis autoimmune polyglandular deficiency syndrome, also named "Schmidt syndrome", comprising adrenocortical insufficiency (Addison's disease) and lymphocytic thyroiditis (Hashimoto thyroiditis). The diagnosis of polyglandular insufficiency is often delayed due to non-specific symptoms at early disease stages and progression may be rapid, culminating in Addisonian crisis under physical stress or infection, requiring immediate high-dose hormone replacement therapy. Hence, careful re-examination is mandatory to ensure adequate treatment before life-threatening complications occur. Nowadays this type of disease is classified as autoimmune polyglandular syndrome type II (APS type II) with an increased risk of developing insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), vitiligo, alopecia, pernicious anaemia, coeliac disease, myasthenia gravis and primary hypogonadism. The cause of the disease remains obscure but in addition to an autosomal dominant trait with variable penetrance some hints at viral infection triggering the disease process exist.

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