HomeDiseasesAddison'sEverything You Want to Know About Addison’s Disease

Everything You Want to Know About Addison’s Disease

Addison disease, also known as hypoadrenalism or primary adrenal insufficiency, is an uncommon disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands, which are located on top of each kidney, are unable to produce sufficient quantities of the hormones, aldosterone and cortisol. These hormones are essential for maintaining the body’s balance of electrolytes and water as well as for regulating the body’s response to stress.

Let us find out more details about the disease of the adrenal gland–Addison’s disease.


What is Addison’s disease?

Addison’s disease is a long-term condition, in which the adrenal glands fail to produce enough cortisol and aldosterone. The adrenal glands, also referred to as suprarenal glands, are triangle-shaped, small glands that are situated on top of the two kidneys. They are elements of the endocrine system.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that aids the body’s response to various illnesses, injuries, or surgeries. It also aids in the maintenance of blood pressure, the immune system, heart functions, and blood sugar (glucose) levels. Cortisol is necessary for survival.

Aldosterone, another hormone produced by the adrenal glands, regulates the potassium and sodium (salt) levels in the blood. The salt levels, in turn, are responsible for regulating the quantity of fluid removed by the kidneys as urine, which impacts blood pressure and blood volume.

Primary adrenal insufficiency is another name for Addison’s disease. Secondary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the pituitary gland fails to produce sufficient adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.


Addison’s disease symptoms


Addison’s disease causes gradual damage to the adrenal glands; therefore, the symptoms appear progressively. The symptoms vary from individual to individual.
The symptoms of Addison’s disease include:

  • Gradually worsening fatigue (the most common symptom)
  • Hyperpigmentation (patches of dark skin), particularly around the skin creases, scars, and gums
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Appetite loss
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Muscle pain, spasms, and/or joint pain
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood pressure, which might cause light headedness or dizziness on standing
  • Mood and behaviour changes, including depression, irritability, and poor concentration
  • A craving for salty foods
  • Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels)


In some cases, after an injury, a severe illness, or a period of massive stress, the symptoms can appear quickly and cause a potentially fatal event known as acute adrenal failure. This condition is a medical emergency called an Addisonian crisis. It can cause shock and even death if not treated. The symptoms of an Addisonian crisis include:

  • Sudden, excruciating pain in the lower back, abdomen, or legs
  • Extreme weakness
  • Restlessness, confusion, fear, or even other mental changes
  • Severe vomiting and diarrhoea, which may result in dehydration
  • Consciousness loss
  • Low blood pressure

If someone is exhibiting these symptoms, they must be taken to a nearby hospital immediately.


When should you see a doctor?


Consult a doctor if anyone has any of the following symptoms of Addison’s disease:


  • Skin discoloration in patches
  • Severe tiredness
  • Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain
  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Dehydration (extreme loss of body fluid)
  • Feeling dizzy or fainting
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Cravings for salt


Causes of Addison’s disease

Addison’s disease can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions, including autoimmune disorders, infections, and certain medications. The most common cause of the disorder is an autoimmune disorder, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages the adrenal glands. This can lead to the inflammation, scarring, and, eventually, destruction of the adrenal glands. Other causes of Addison’s disease include infections such as tuberculosis and HIV as well as certain medications, such as those used to treat inflammatory disorders or cancer.


Diagnosis of Addison’s disease


A doctor will ask for information regarding the medical history as well as the associated symptoms one has been experiencing. They will perform a physical examination for signs of low blood pressure or pigmentation changes on the skin and may order laboratory tests to check sodium and potassium levels.


The doctor may also recommend imaging tests such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can help identify any structural abnormalities in the adrenal glands and assess your hormone levels (hormones produced by the adrenal glands, such as cortisol and aldosterone).


Treatment for Addison’s disease

Treatment for Addison disease involves the replacement of the hormones, which cannot be produced by the adrenal glands, with the synthetic forms of cortisol and aldosterone.
Hydrocortisone is used to replace cortisol, and fludrocortisone is used to replace aldosterone. Since Addison’s disease is a lifelong illness, people with Addison’s disease will require medications for the entirety of their lives from the onset of the condition. The dosage of medications differs with individuals, and the healthcare professional may increase the dosage in case one has an infection, trauma, surgery, or some other stressful situation, to prevent an acute adrenal crisis.

If someone is taking fludrocortisone, their doctor may advise them to consume more salt, particularly in humid and hot climates and after vigorous exercise.

It is also important for people with Addison’s disease to avoid stress as much as possible as stress can cause the body to release hormones that can further deplete the adrenal glands. People with Addison’s disease should also be aware of the signs and symptoms of an adrenal crisis, which is a serious condition that can occur when the body is unable to produce enough hormones to cope with stress. The signs of an adrenal crisis include severe abdominal pain, vomiting, dehydration, and a rapid heartbeat.


In conclusion, Addison’s disease is a rare disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands are unable to produce enough amounts of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. It can cause a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, muscle weakness, weight loss, and darkening of the skin. Its therapy plan typically involves replacement therapy with the hormones cortisol and aldosterone as well as treatment for any underlying causes of the disorder. With proper treatment, people with Addison’s disease can lead normal, healthy lives.

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