(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 may increase your chance 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:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Imaging tests evaluate the adrenal glands and surrounding structures. These may include:
Symptoms of Addison's disease can be controlled with medications. They 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 pituitary tumors causing the disease.
Regular blood tests are needed to monitor your response to medication. 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 current guidelines to prevent Addison's disease.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Adrenal Diseases Foundation
The Canadian Addison Society
Adrenal insufficiency and Addison's disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
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Updated May 14, 2014. Accessed June 4, 2014.
Adrenal insufficiency in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
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Updated December 16, 2013. Accessed June 4, 2014.
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Last reviewed May 2016 by Kim Carmichael, MD
Last Updated: 6/4/2014
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