UK Girl Dies After Doctors Fail to Diagnose Addison’s Disease
July 29, 2014
A “VIVACIOUS and lively girl” died after her rare medical disorder went undiagnosed by doctors.
Clare Cooper died aged 24 in February 2013 from Addison’s disease, a rare disorder of the adrenal glands affecting the production of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone.
An inquest into her death heard how the condition – which affects around 8,400 people in the UK – went undiagnosed despite the fact she visited two GPs, an eating disorder clinic and East Surrey Hospital over the course of more than a year when she began to lose weight and found herself lethargic and unable to eat.
On one occasion, in November 2012, the South Nutfield resident fainted while on a night out and went to visit her doctor the next morning.
On another, in September of the same year, she visited East Surrey Hospital with a very fast heart rate.
The inquest at Woking Coroner’s Court on Friday heard how doctors at Woodlands Surgery, in Woodlands Road, Redhill, missed “red flags” including Clare’s complaints of unexplained weight loss throughout 2012 and two blood tests showing she had a sodium level of 126 milliequivalents per litre – compared to a usual reading of between 135 and 145.
But rather than searching for an “organic” – or physical – cause, the inquest heard doctors referred Clare to an eating disorder clinic to test for a psychological cause.
Coroner Dr Karen Henderson concluded: “Clare exhibited significant symptoms and red flags to warrant further investigation and, in all likelihood, the investigation would have led to her diagnosis.”
She added: “Clare died as a consequence of Addison’s disease and opportunities were lost for its diagnosis and treatment, which could have affected the outcome.”
Clare’s mother Carol Cooper told the inquest that when Clare first began to complain of health problems in 2011 it came as a surprise to members of the family because she had always been a healthy and active girl.
She said: “We, as a family, used to say ‘gosh, has Clare got the sniffles again?'”
But the family did not know Clare’s inability to shake a chest infection, or her subsequent unexplained weight loss were, in fact, signs of the potentially fatal Addison’s disease.
As time progressed, and into 2012, the tiredness and illness became more severe and she visited GPs at Woodlands Surgery on five occasions in 2012 complaining of weight loss, tiredness and anxiety.
Mrs Cooper told the inquest: “She was tired and under the weather, she would go to bed early and she didn’t have the energy of other people her age.”
Clare was referred to an eating disorder clinic late in December 2012 and the inquest heard how Clare had “set great hope” in the clinic.
When Clare collapsed suddenly at home on February 3 last year, she was rushed to East Surrey Hospital where she died early the next morning.
A post-mortem examination first gave the cause of death as sudden adult death syndrome, but this was reviewed after an expert in Addison’s disease, Professor John Wass, was asked to look into the case.
Concluding the inquest, Dr Henderson changed the official cause of death to an Addisonian Crisis – a potentially fatal condition caused by an acute lack of cortisol – with undiagnosed Addison’s disease as a secondary cause.
Her mother Carol told the inquest: “Clare was a vivacious and lively, beautiful girl.
“She always had an engaging smile and she was very good at engaging people and connecting with people.”
Woodlands Surgery did not respond to the Mirror’s request for a comment before we went to press.
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