Gitelman syndrome manifesting in early childhood and leading to delayed puberty: a case report

J Med Case Rep. 2012 Oct 2;6:331. doi: 10.1186/1752-1947-6-331.


Introduction: Gitelman syndrome is an inherited autosomal recessive renal salt-wasting disorder. It presents with variable clinical symptoms including muscle weakness and fatigue, and the diagnosis is based on metabolic alkalosis, hypokalemia, hypomagnesemia and hypocalciuria. It is usually diagnosed incidentally in early adulthood. There are rare cases of Gitelman syndrome presenting in early childhood; however, to the best of our knowledge it has not previously been associated with delayed puberty.

Case presentation: A 17-year-old South Asian man with recurrent episodes of generalized muscle weakness, fatigue and cramps from the age of two years was admitted for further workup. Before the age of 12 years, the episodes had been mild, but they then got progressively worse. Other symptoms include polyuria, polydipsia, nocturia, paresthesia and occasional watery diarrhea. He also had a history of short stature, poor weight gain and delayed developmental landmarks. His family history was unremarkable except for the consanguineous marriage of his parents. An examination revealed a thin and lean man with blood pressure of 95/60mmHg. His height and weight were below the third percentile and his sexual development was at Tanner Stage II. Laboratory work revealed serum sodium of 124mmol/L, potassium 2.4mmol/L, calcium 6.5mmol/L and magnesium of 1.2mg/dL. His testosterone level was low (0.85ng/mL, normal for his age 2.67 to 10.12ng/mL) with normal levels of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone. The sex hormone findings were attributed to delayed puberty. A 24-hour urinary analysis revealed decreased excretion of calcium (25.9mg/24 hours). Based on the findings of hypokalemic metabolic alkalosis without hypertension, severe hypomagnesemia and hypocalciuria, a diagnosis of Gitelman syndrome was made. Treatment was started with oral supplementation of potassium, magnesium and calcium along with spironolactone and liberal salt intake.

Conclusion: Diagnosis of Gitelman syndrome is usually made incidentally during adolescence or early adulthood based on clinical and biochemical findings. We report that Gitelman syndrome can present during the early childhood years. If undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to growth retardation and delayed puberty.