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Type I Polyglandular Autoimmune Syndrome Treatment & Management

  • Author: Saleh A Aldasouqi, MD, FACE, ECNU; Chief Editor: Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP  more...
Updated: Aug 28, 2014

Medical Care

The treatment for polyglandular autoimmune (PGA) syndrome, type I, is targeted at whatever organ is affected. It is always best to identify and treat the respective autoimmunity before any significant morbidity can develop.

For the most part, replacement therapy and patient education about the chronic diseases are integral to treatment success. The educational aspect is extremely important, because it helps the patient with the early detection of any new autoimmune states and aids in the adequate treatment of this chronic syndrome.

Mucocutaneous candidiasis

  • This condition is treated with oral fluconazole and ketoconazole.
  • Absorption of ketoconazole may be compromised if coexistent atrophic gastritis exists. Ketoconazole may also inhibit adrenal and gonadal synthesis, which could worsen the coexistent Addison disease and cause hepatitis.
  • Fluconazole is preferred, because it does not inhibit steroidogenesis and is less frequently associated with the development of hepatitis. It is, however, an expensive medication.


  • This disorder usually is gradual and permanent, and oral calcium and vitamin D usually are adequate therapy. Doses of vitamin D range from 50,000-100,000 U/d. Calcitriol (1,25-dihydroxy D) is a better choice physiologically, but it is more expensive. Other vitamin D synthetic analogues also are suitable for replacement, but cost again must be considered.
  • In cases in which there is coexisting malabsorption, tetany may occur and IV calcium gluconate and magnesium may be necessary.
  • The hypocalcemia seen in PGA-I also has been reported to result from pancreatic insufficiency, giardiasis (which occurs with increased frequency in PGA-I), and lymphangiectasia. Each of these requires specific therapy.

Adrenal insufficiency (Addison disease)

  • The treatment of adrenal failure depends mainly on 2 factors.
    • Treatment is influenced by the question of whether or not the patient is in crisis with hypotension and consequently requires IV fluids and IV steroids. Otherwise, treatment is influenced by the question of whether or not chronic and otherwise stable oral steroids, eg, prednisone, can be used with or without fludrocortisone.
    • Another factor influencing treatment is whether or not a confident diagnosis of adrenal failure can be made based on the information at hand when the patient is seen. This may determine what kind of IV steroid is used. If the diagnosis is not clear, then the physician may opt to use dexamethasone IV, because it does not interfere with subsequent cortisol measurements required for the diagnosis of Addison disease. However, if sufficient clinical evidence exists in favor of Addison disease, then using hydrocortisone is better because of its additional mineralocorticoid benefit, as an aldosterone defect also is seen. Most of the time, a mineralocorticoid (eg, fludrocortisone) also is added to the regimen.
  • The glucocorticoid dose is changed according to the patient's symptoms. Monitor electrolytes and the activity levels of plasma renin to assess the efficacy of treatment with fludrocortisone.
  • In cases of intercurrent illness, increase the doses of hydrocortisone.
  • In the presence of coexisting diabetes, which is occasionally seen with PGA-I, the daily dose usually should not exceed 30 mg/d, unless the need for a larger dosage is confirmed. This necessitates higher doses of insulin; on many occasions, this results in difficulty controlling glucose levels.
  • Other deficiencies seen in association with diabetes and pernicious anemia, eg, hypothyroidism, can be corrected by replacement therapy.
  • Adrenal gland transplants have been successful in experimental rodents and in humans.
  • Vitamin and mineral replacement occasionally is needed to complement hormonal replacement.

Surgical Care

No specific surgical interventions exist that are unique to the management of polyglandular autoimmune (PGA) syndrome, type I. However, complications from a component of the syndrome may require therapeutic procedures or surgical interventions, as for example, in the case of a patient requiring intubation and other critical care therapeutic interventions after going into adrenal crisis culminating in septic/hypovolemic shock.



See the list below:

  • Endocrinology - Complex interactions exist that may affect the replacement of adrenal, thyroid, and parathyroid hormones; these are best handled by an endocrinologist.
  • Infectious diseases - To help with recurrent candidiasis
  • Gastroenterology - If bowel or hepatic involvement is noted
  • Rheumatology - If necessary because of the autoimmune nature of the disease, especially when considering immunosuppressive therapy
  • Other consultations may be needed according to the clinical situation.


A high-salt diet is beneficial to patients with adrenal insufficiency.

If coexisting diabetes is present, institute a diabetic diet.



As tolerated

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Saleh A Aldasouqi, MD, FACE, ECNU Associate Professor of Medicine, Vice Chief of Endocrinology Division, Department of Medicine, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Saleh A Aldasouqi, MD, FACE, ECNU is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American College of Physicians

Disclosure: Received honoraria from Takeda for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from Janssen for speaking and teaching; Received honoraria from Invokana for speaking and teaching.


Olakunle P A Akinsoto, MD, MB, BCh Consulting Staff, Family Health Center

Olakunle P A Akinsoto, MD, MB, BCh is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine, American Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Serge A Jabbour, MD, FACP, FACE Professor of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases, Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University

Serge A Jabbour, MD, FACP, FACE is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine, American Diabetes Association, American Medical Association, American Thyroid Association, Endocrine Society, Pennsylvania Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Arthur B Chausmer, MD, PhD, FACP, FACE, FACN, CNS Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology, Adj), Johns Hopkins School of Medicine; Affiliate Research Professor, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Program, School of Computational Sciences, George Mason University; Principal, C/A Informatics, LLC

Arthur B Chausmer, MD, PhD, FACP, FACE, FACN, CNS is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American College of Nutrition, American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, International Society for Clinical Densitometry, American College of Endocrinology, American College of Physicians, American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine, American Medical Informatics Association, Endocrine Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP Professor of Endocrinology, Director of Training Program, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Strelitz Diabetes and Endocrine Disorders Institute, Department of Internal Medicine, Eastern Virginia Medical School

Romesh Khardori, MD, PhD, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, American College of Physicians, American Diabetes Association, Endocrine Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


I would like to thank Jinie Shirey at the Department of Medicine, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing for manuscript assistance and preparation, and Laura Smith at the Medical Library, Sparrow Hospital, Lansing, Michigan, for assistance in reference retrieval.

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