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Manchester United Helps Diagnose Fan’s Rare Condition

Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images(LONDON) -- British doctors could diagnose a 58-year-old woman with Addison's disease -- a rare endocrine disorder -- based on the symptoms she had during high-drama soccer games, according to a new case study.

The devout Manchester United fan, whose name was not released, developed shortness of breath, heart palpitations and "a sense of impending doom" while watching her team face premier league rivals Manchester City and Chelsea earlier this year.

"We believe that our patient was having difficulty mounting an appropriate physiological cortisol response during the big games, and therefore we present this as the first description of Manchester United induced addisonian crisis," Dr. Akbar Choudhry of Manchester's Trafford General Hospital and colleagues wrote in the Christmas issue of BMJ.

Cortisol is a hormone secreted during times of stress by the adrenal glands, which sit like toupees atop both kidneys. The hormone raises blood sugar and blood pressure to compensate for the effects of stress. But people with Addison's disease produce too little cortisol.

Once diagnosed, Addison's can be treated with a 20-milligram daily dose of hydrocortisone -- a synthetic version of cortisol. But in high-stress situations, patients need higher doses.

The treatment for such a catastrophe, also known as an Addisonian crisis, is a onetime 100-milligram hydrocortisone injection. Patients are instructed to wear medical alert bracelets to warn others about their condition.

Addison's affects between one and three people per 100,000 in the U.S., according to National Adrenal Diseases Foundation executive director Melanie Wong, who was diagnosed with the disease at age 29.

The disease is difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms, such as fatigue, weakness, weight loss and mood changes, are common to other conditions.

The cheeky case study sheds light on a rare and difficult to diagnose disease that amplifies the dangers of too much stress.

"We usually tell patient the emotional stress isn't as big a problem as the physiological stress," said Dr. Lee Parks, an endocrinologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "But apparently she's a big enough fan."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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