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Addison's disease

  • Posted on- Apr 22, 2015
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When your body’s adrenal glands produce insufficient amount of certain hormones, it leads to what is called Addison's disease (Adrenal Insufficiency). In Addison’s disease, our body produces inadequate levels of both cortisol and aldosterone hormones. The disease is life-threatening and not restricted to any age group or sex.

Causes of Addison's disease
Adrenal glands are located above the kidneys and responsible for producing cortisol and aldosterone hormones. These hormones play a role of instructing every organ and tissue in your body. The interior medulla and exterior cortex make up adrenal glands and produce hormones called corticosteroids, which include glucocorticoids, mineralcorticoids and androgens.

Addison’s disease is the result of the inability of exterior cortex to produce sufficient hormones. Endocrinologists refer this condition as primary adrenal insufficiency. The inability of adrenal glands to secrete adrenocortical hormones is because of autoimmune disease (body attacking itself). For factors still unknown, the immune system views cortex as something to attack. Causes of adrenal gland failure are:


If the pituitary gland is not functioning as it should be, it may result into Adrenal insufficiency. ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) triggers the adrenal cortex to produce its hormones. ACTYH is mane by the pituitary gland. Insufficient amount of ACTH leads to insufficient production of adrenal glands hormones, even though they are working properly. Endocrinologists refer this condition as secondary adrenal insufficiency. The cause for this type of adrenal insufficiency is the intake of corticosteroids for treatment of chronic conditions.


Symptoms

Symptoms of Addison's disease
The signs and symptoms of Addison’s disease develop slowly, over a period of time. They include:

  • Tiredness and muscle weakness 
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss 
  • Hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin) 
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Increased likeliness for salt 
  • Low blood sugar levels 
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea 
  • Joint pain, aching muscles 
  • Stress, depression 
  • Irritability 
  • Sexual dysfunction in women or hair loss

In some cases, sign and symptoms of Addison’s disease appear suddenly leading to addisonian crisis.

Symptoms include:
  • Back, abdomen and legs pain a lot 
  • Continuing vomiting leading to dehydration 
  • Low blood pressure 
  • Faintness 
  • Hyperkalemia (High levels of potassium in the body)


Treatment

Available treatment for Addison's disease
The only available treatment for Addison's disease is the replacement therapy which corrects the levels of hormones your body isn't producing. It includes:

  • For aldosterone, your endocrinologist may prescribe fludrocortisones that may be taken orally. For cortisol, he may prescribe Hydrocortisone (Cortef), prednisone or cortisone acetate. 
  • Injections may be required if you are down with vomiting and unable to retain oral medications. 
  • Androgen replacement therapy may be prescribed for women having deficiency of androgen. Studies have shown to improve sense of well-being and sexual intimacy.

When to consult an endocrinologist
Book an appointment with endocrinologist if you experience symptoms that usually occur in people with Addison's disease:

For a successful treatment for Addison's disease, it is important that you follow up with your endocrinologist regularly. It is to make sure that you receive adequate but not excessive doses of replacement hormones.