Adults with adrenal insufficiency who are adequately treated and trained display the same incidence of COVID-19-suggestive symptoms and disease severity as controls, according to a presenter.
“Adrenal insufficiency is supposed to be associated with an increased risk for infections and complications,” Giulia Carosi, a doctoral student in the department of experimental medicine at Sapienza University of Rome, said during a presentation at the virtual European Congress of Endocrinology Annual Meeting. “Our aim was to evaluate the incidence of COVID symptoms and related complications in this group.”
In a retrospective, case-control study, Carosi and colleagues evaluated the incidence of COVID-19 symptoms and complications among 279 adults with primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency (mean age, 57 years; 49.8% women) and 112 adults with benign pituitary nonfunctioning lesions without hormonal alterations, who served as controls (mean age, 58 years; 52.7% women). All participants lived in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. Participants completed a standardized questionnaire by phone on COVID-19-suggestive symptoms, such as fever, cough, myalgia, fatigue, dyspnea, gastrointestinal symptoms, conjunctivitis, loss of smell, loss of taste, upper respiratory tract symptoms, thoracic pain, headaches and ear pain. Patients with primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency were previously trained to modify their glucocorticoid replacement therapy when appropriate.
From February through April, the prevalence of participants reporting at least one symptom of viral infection was similar between the adrenal insufficiency group and controls (24% vs. 22.3%; P = .788).
Researchers observed “highly suggestive” symptoms among 12.5% of participants in both groups.
No participant required hospitalization and no adrenal crisis was reported. Replacement therapy was correctly increased for about 30% of symptomatic participants with adrenal insufficiency.
Carosi noted that few nasopharyngeal swabs were performed (n = 12), limiting conclusions on the exact infection rate (positive result in 0.7% among participants with adrenal insufficiency and 0% of controls; P = .515).
“We can conclude that hypoadrenal patients who have regular follow-up and trained about risks for infection and sick day rules seem to present the same incidence of COVID-19 symptoms and the same disease severity as controls,” Carosi said.
As Healio previously reported, there is no evidence that COVID-19 has a more severe course among individuals with primary and secondary adrenal insufficiency; however, those with adrenal insufficiency are at increased risk for respiratory and viral infections, and patients experiencing major inflammation and fever are at risk for life-threatening adrenal crisis. In a position statement issued by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists in March, researchers wrote that people with adrenal insufficiency or uncontrolled Cushing’s syndrome should continue to take their medications as prescribed and ensure they have appropriate supplies for oral and injectable steroids at home, with a 90-day preparation recommended. In the event of acute illness, those with adrenal insufficiency are instructed to increase their hydrocortisone dose per instructions and call their health care provider for more details. Standard “sick day” rules for increasing oral glucocorticoids or injectables would also apply, according to the statement.