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Summary of having Kallmann Syndrome.

March 4, 2012

I was diagnosed with Kallmann syndrome at the age of 22 after spending my teenage years and early adulthood being labelled as a “late developer” or “late bloomer”.

Kallmann syndrome is a form of hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism with the associated symptom of anosmia. It affects both men and women but is at least five times more common in men. It is a congenital condition with currently nine known gene defects linked to its cause which combined still only account for less than 40% of cases. Patients are left with poorly developed or no secondary sexual characteristics, are infertile and at increased risk of osteoporosis.

Childhood years:

My early childhood was fairly uneventful medically apart from 70% hearing loss in one ear and no sense of smell. I reached the normal pre-puberty Tanner stages and up to the age of twelve nothing seemed to be amiss. Going through the early teenage years it was a case of waking up each day and hoping something was going to start to develop. I knew I was getting late to start puberty but I assumed it would all start soon enough. Eventually I was the only one in my year group not to show any development and was certainly noticed by the rest of the year group.

A routine health inspection by the school nurse as part of the health screen for the permit to work on a newspaper delivery round led to a referring to a GP at the age of 15. At that stage the GP said I was just late starting and I should wait and see and was sent on my way.

Teenage years:

Up to the age of 14 I was a normal enough school boy I think, I was in the Scouts and was involved in my local cricket club. I gradually got left out of social events as I lacked the confidence to go and had no sexual drive at all. I knew the basics from a purely physical point of view but had no libido or interest in any sort of teenage activities. I made up excuses not to go to social events and eventually I stopped being invited.

By the age of 17 it was clear nothing was starting so I was referred to a general medical consultant and then an urologist at Derifford hospital in Plymouth. I was put on low dose Sustanon monthly but with no follow up assessment, it was just assumed it would all start naturally.

By the time I went to University it was obvious something was wrong but I did not have the drive to do anything about it. I even stopped taking the Sustanon for a time at University as it seemed to having no effect on me at all. Looking back now there were opportunities for me at University but without the drive and the knowledge of the condition I did not have the interest or confidence to notice them, let alone follow up on them.

Diagnosis:

The first time I actually saw an endocrinologist was when I started my first job as a Biomedical Scientist at the Royal Free Hospital in North London. I had studied endocrinology and haematology as part of my biomedical science degree and had a bit of an understanding on how puberty was supposed to work. When I started work at the Royal Free I was determined to talk to and endocrinologist even though my GP still had not referred me. Under my own volition I contacted Dr Richard Quinton, at the time a specialist registrar in endocrinology under Prof. Pierre-Marc Bouloux. One of the first questions he asked was “did I have a sense of smell”. It was the first time any doctor had asked me that question.

From there the correct diagnosis came soon after and I was put on a suitable dose of testosterone, first in the form of Testogel and then later Nebido. The delay from the age of 16 to 22 meant I went six years with a very low testosterone level with the subsequent delay in secondary sexual development and bone strength.

Blood tests then confirmed the low levels of FSH and LH which, combined with the anosmia confirmed the diagnosis. A subsequent MRI showed the absence of the olfactory bulbs. A DEXA scan showed osteopenia and I was prescribed Fosamax at the time, which has now been replaced with high dose Vitamin D therapy. At the time of diagnosis I probably looked 10 years younger than I was and never shaved.

Delay of Diagnosis.

On a physical level the late diagnosis has left me with osteopenia which is still present but at least not deteriorating. The lack of gonadotrophins and hence androgens in my teenage years also resulted in a delay in the development of secondary sexual characteristics. The lack of testicular development will always be present in Kallmann syndrome but the lack of penile growth will always leave the question of what would have happened if testosterone treatment had been started earlier and at the correct dose.

It is on the psychological level that the late diagnosis has the biggest impact in my view. Judging by my own experiences and those of fellow patients I meet and talk to now this is an area which is very frequently overlooked. With puberty and adolescence being so closely linked if a patient does not enter puberty at almost the same stage as his peer group he risks being left behind socially and emotionally as well as physically. I feel that this emotional development of social interaction is difficult to catch up on and is often a result of feeling socially isolated when puberty fails to start.

In my experience with fellow patients it is those who are diagnosed early and treated early who cope with the condition better. For a lot of people I talk to the very fact they can put a name to the condition and realise that they are not the only person in the world not going through puberty is a big step in being able to cope with the condition.

Treatments available:

Referral to a reproductive endocrinologist allows for the possibility for fertility treatments. Even though there is a reported good success rate with gonadotrophin therapy for both men and women with KS there is not universal availability of treatments across the country probably due to the high cost FSH treatments. I feel there is a good argument for FSH treatment to be available to younger men with KS even if fertility is not the ultimate goal. The testicular development achieved while on FSH can help with self confidence and emotional development.

Pregnyl / hCG can be used in isolation just for testosterone production and is useful indicator for the effectiveness of FSH treatment. The type of hormonal replacement therapy used is also important for both men and women. The Nebido injection for men may be more suitable than the Sustanon injection due its length of action, while for some the gel, capsules or deep muscular implants may be more beneficial.

The most important treatment is possibly the diagnosis itself. Being labelled as a “late starter” or “late bloomer” when in your early twenties can be very self destructive. The ability to put a label on the condition and the knowledge that it is a recognised condition is the first step in coming to terms with a condition that is difficult to describe to others. The use of patient support groups on Yahoo and Facebook also play a big part in people being able to talk about the condition but this can only be achieved once they have got the correct diagnosis.

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One Comment
  1. Sumka permalink

    I am a woman. When I was 16 I was diagnosed by KS. Now I am 27. About 3 years ago I was treated with hormones FSH and LH to get pregnant. Now I have 20 months old tweens. I am worried about they maybe have KS, too…

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