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Addison’s Disease



Addison’s disease, also known as ‘adrenal insufficiency’ is a rare disorder where the adrenal glands do not produce certain hormones that are essential for healthy living. It may occur at any age in both men and women.

Addison’s Disease Causes

The primary cause of the Addison’s disease is the dysfunction of the adrenal glands. The dysfunction can be caused due to ongoing diseases like HIV, cancer, tuberculosis or fungal infections. These can harm the adrenal glands.

Addison’s Disease Symptoms

Addison’s disease symptoms may develop over several months, which may include the following:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Darkening of your skin (hyperpigmentation)
  • Weight loss and decreased appetite
  • Salt craving
  • Low blood pressure, even fainting
  • Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Muscle or joint pains
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Body hair loss or sexual dysfunction can be seen in women

However, some of the symptoms may occur immediately in case of acute adrenal gland failure. These symptoms may include pain in your lower back, abdomen or legs, low blood pressure, severe vomiting and diarrhea, leading to dehydration, low sodium (hyponatremia) and loss of consciousness.

Addison’s Disease Diagnosis

Doctors may first ask about your medical history and the symptoms, based on which he may recommend the following tests:

  • Blood test
  • ACTH stimulation test
  • Imaging tests
  • Insulin-induced hypoglycemia test

Addison’s Disease Treatments

Addison’s disease treatment involves hormone replacement therapy, which will rectify the steroid hormones in the body. Some of the treatment options include oral corticosteroids, corticosteroid injections and sodium intake.

Oral corticosteroids like Hydrocortisone, cortisone acetate or prednisolone may be used to replace the cortisol hormones. The doctor may also prescribe fludrocortisone to replace aldosterone.

Corticosteroid injections are given in case of vomiting and inability to use oral medications.

Doctors may recommend consuming ample amounts of sodium, especially after vigorous exercise, in extreme heat or in the case of diarrhea. The doctors may also increase the dosage if the patient is facing a stressful situation.

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UPDATED ON 15/11/2023

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