CEN case reports 2018 02 15() doi 10.1007/s13730-018-0315-4
Hypokalemia and hypomagnesemia are frequently observed in patients with chronic alcoholism. However, the involvement of deranged cortisol regulation in patients with those conditions has not been reported. A 63-year-old Japanese male with chronic alcoholism was referred to the Department of Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism for examination and treatment of hypokalemic periodic paralysis. Laboratory findings showed hypokalemia (2.3 mmol/l), as well as a high level of urinary excretion of potassium and hypomagnesemia (1.2 mg/dl), whereas urinary excretion of magnesium was undetectable. Potassium infusion treatment recovered that level in serum to 4.1 mmol/l, though it decreased to 2.2 mmol/l following discontinuation. A dexamethasone suppression test and urinary cortisol level showed corticotropin-dependent hypercortisolemia. However, gadolinium-enhanced MRI revealed no evidence of pituitary adenoma. The patient recovered from hypokalemia following an administration of magnesium in addition to potassium, which was accompanied by potassium over-excretion improvement. After being discharged, serum potassium level was maintained within a normal range with only magnesium infusion treatment. Furthermore, alcohol intake was reduced from 160 to 20 g/day and an endocrinological re-examination after that restriction showed normal cortisol regulation. The patient was diagnosed with pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome induced by alcohol abuse. Serum potassium level was maintained within a normal range even after discontinuation of magnesium supplementation. Our findings in this case indicate that pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome in conjunction with hypomagnesemia may be involved in development of hypokalemia in patients with chronic alcoholism.