Glycogen hepatopathy (GH), a rare glycogen storage disease caused by genetic or acquired overactivation of hepatic glycogen synthesis enzymes, can mimic non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). We describe a case of biopsy-proven GH in an adult with type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM).

A 33-year-old Honduran woman with a 25-year history of type 1 DM complicated by gastroparesis, multiple episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and hypoglycemia, and recurrent pancreatitis was referred for abnormal liver enzymes. Family history was negative for liver disease. There was no history of alcohol or recreational drug use. Patients' medications included insulin and thyroxine. Physical exam showed hepatomegaly but no stigmata of chronic liver disease. Aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT) had ranged from 100’s to over 7000 U/L while alkaline phosphatase (ALP) was elevated to over 400 IU/L. Albumin, total bilirubin, platelets, international normalized ratio (INR), eosinophils, viral hepatitis panel, antinuclear antibody (ANA), smooth muscle antibody (Ab), anti-liver-kidney microsomal (LKM) Ab, celiac serologies, ceruloplasmin, alpha 1 antitrypsin, iron studies, and acetaminophen levels were all normal. An abdominal ultrasound showed “fatty liver” and an atrophic pancreas. CT abdomen showed hepatomegaly. The common bile duct (CBD) was found to be normal on endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP). A liver biopsy was pursued eventually, demonstrating glycogenotic hepatocytes.

GH is frequently misdiagnosed as NAFLD, a more common liver disease that occurs in association with diabetes While GH is known to be reversible, NAFLD has been known to progress to advanced liver disease, ranging from cirrhosis to hepatocellular carcinoma. Definite diagnosis often requires liver biopsy because of overlapping clinical and radiographical pictures. Elevation of both glucose and insulin levels in the setting of fragile DM control is thought to play a role via overstimulation of glycogen synthesis. Recommended treatment is stable “tight” glycemic control; pancreatic transplantation has resulted in sustained GH remission in two case reports. The required degree of stability and tightness of glucose control is not yet known. An increased awareness of GH is needed in an attempt to prevent delay in diagnosis, in a condition with an otherwise unknown incidence.

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© Copyright 2021 Azhar et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License CC-BY 4.0., which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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