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Harris' syndrome

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Historical term for hyperinsulinismus that may occur in insulin-producing tumours of the pancreas (insulinoma). Syndrome characterized by low blood sugar, weakness, hunger (epinephrine response), a sense of jitteriness, hunger, increasing nervousness, mild mental confusion or even personality alterations with erratic behaviour, and a compensatory hyperadrenalaemia with tachyardia and flushing and sweating. Other features include headache, visual disturbances, twitching, thick speech, transitory hemiplegia, seizures (cerebral response).

Occurs at all ages, in both sexes during the course of a wide variety of diseases and is the presenting sign of many other disturbances, such as functional disorders of the pancreas, hyperplasia of the islands of Langerhans, or insulinoma.

The concept of the syndrome was postulated by Harris in 1924 after he observed insulin produced hyperglycaemia. It is observed more frequently in adults but a small number of cases of so-called idiopathic hypoglycaemosis, sometimes familial, has been observed in infants.

See also Hers' disease, or Glycogen storage disease type 6, under Henri-Géry Hers, Belgian physiologist and biochemist.


  • S. Harris:
    Hyperinsulinism and dysinsulinism.
    Journal of the American Medical Association, Chicago, 1924; 83: 729-733.

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