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Misdiagnosed Woman Has Rare Condition

A 50-year-old woman, who was repeatedly diagnosed as drunk despite denying alcohol consumption, was eventually found to have auto-brewery syndrome. This rare condition causes gut fungi to ferment, producing alcohol.

The woman had visited the hospital seven times over two years, presenting symptoms such as extreme fatigue and slurred speech. Each time, she was sent home with a diagnosis of alcohol intoxication, even though she had not consumed alcohol. Her symptoms were so severe that she had to take up to two weeks off work after each episode.

Auto-brewery syndrome can mimic the symptoms of drunkenness, including slurred speech, stumbling, and dizziness. The triggers for this condition can vary, ranging from prolonged antibiotic use to high-carbohydrate diets.

On her seventh hospital visit, a doctor considered the possibility of auto-brewery syndrome. She was then referred to a specialist and prescribed medication. A dietitian recommended a low-carbohydrate diet, which, along with an antifungal medication, alleviated her symptoms for four months.

However, when she reintroduced carbohydrates into her diet, her symptoms returned, leading to a fall. She was advised to resume the low-carbohydrate diet, which again resolved her symptoms.

In an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr. Rahel Zewude of the University of Toronto and her colleagues highlighted the significant social, legal, and medical implications of auto-brewery syndrome. They emphasized the importance of awareness of this syndrome for accurate diagnosis and management. The woman’s case underscores this point, as she had multiple hospital visits and assessments by various specialists before receiving the correct diagnosis.

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