(Adrenal Insufficiency; Adrenocortical Hypofunction; Chronic Adrenocortical Insufficiency; Hypoadrenalism)
by Michelle Badash, MS
Addison's disease is a rare disorder of the adrenal glands. With Addison's, the adrenal glands do not produce enough of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone.
Addison's disease is the result of gradual damage to the outer layer of the adrenal gland. This damage may be caused by:
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that increase your chance of getting Addison's disease include:
Symptoms may include:
A severe complication of Addison's disease is the Addisonian or adrenal crisis. Adrenal crisis is a life threatening disorder, its symptoms include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Your doctor may also need images of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Symptoms of Addison's disease can be controlled with medications. These drugs replace the missing hormones. Medication needs to be taken for the rest of your life. They may need to be increased during times of stress.
Immediate treatment of adrenal crisis includes:
Surgery may also be needed for adrenal tumors or brain tumors causing the disease.
Regular blood tests are needed to monitor your response to medicine. Wear a medical alert bracelet that states adrenal insufficiency or Addison's disease. This will let others know of your condition if you are unable to communicate.
There are no guidelines for preventing Addison's disease. If you think you are at risk, talk to your doctor.
The Adrenoleukodystrophy Foundation
National Adrenal Diseases Foundation
The Canadian Addison Society
Addison's disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health/endo/pubs/addison/addison.htm . Updated April 6, 2012. Accessed June 25, 2013.
Adrenocortical insufficiency. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated May 29, 2013. Accessed June 25, 2013.
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Last reviewed June 2013 by Kim Carmichael, MD; Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/11/2013