Addison’s Disease is a somewhat rare medical condition that affects the Endocrine System. It can also be called:  Chronic Adrenal Insufficiency, hypocortisolism, and hypoadrenalism.

In this condition, the the Adrenal Gland does not produce enough steroid hormones. (Glucocorticoids as well as mineralocorticoids). There can be a complete or partial decrease in the steroid condition depending on severity and onset.

Hypoadrenalism is characterized by low blood pressure, asthenia, and a brownish discoloration of the skin.

70-80% of the time, there is an insufficiency of the adrenal hormone called Cortisol. Often the primary cause can be damage from one’s own Immune System. It this happens, it can be referred to as Primary Adrenal Insufficiency.

Tumors, as a cause, can be seen, but this is typically a rare cause agent.

Symptoms:

Often symptoms resolve around energy level, mood, and some gastrointestinal problems. Not all symptoms may be seen. Other causes may also come into play.

–  Fatigue
–  Abdominal pain
–  Weight loss
–  Nausea
–  Vomiting
–  Weakness
–  Difficulty standing up
–  Low blood pressure
–  Mood changes

Diagnosis

–  Physical Exam
–  Blood work
–  Imaging  – CT and MRI

Treatment

Treatment is often two fold: First, treat the symptoms, and Second – treat hormone level.

–  Replacement of Hormones
–  Hydrocortisone Tablets in some cases or Prednisone Tablets.
–  Fludrocortisone as a replacement if patient is missing aldosterone (A type of Hormone)
*** – Treatment is often life-long

A Serious Complication is an Addisonian Crisis

–  This is a grouping of symptoms that can indicate severe adrenal insufficiency.
–  Possibly the result of an undiagnosed condition or a serious change in adrenal function.
–  This is a medical emergency and potentially life-threatening situation

Symptoms of this are:

1.)  Sudden pain in legs, lower back, or abdomen
2.)  Severe vomiting and diarrhea
3.)  Dehydration
4.)  Low blood pressure
5.)  Syncope – Loss of consciousness or ability to stand
6.)  Hypoglycemia [Low blood sugar]
7.)  Low Sodium levels
8.)  Elevated Potassium
9.)  Elevated Calcium
10.)  Fevers
11.)  Confusion
12.)  Psychosis
13.)  Slurred Speech
14.)  Lethargy
15.)  Convulsions

Treatment for Crisis

–  Standard therapy involves injections of a hormone.
–  Large volumes of IV fluid including Dextrose.
–  Fluid by mouth is the next treatment when patient becomes more stable.

 

**** Addison’s disease is named after Dr. Thomas Addison, the British physician who first described the condition in 1849

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