Addison’s Disease

The Medical term is Adrenal Insufficiency.

According to medical websites:

  • Adrenal insufficiency is an endocrine-or hormonal-disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough of certain hormones. The adrenal glands are located just above the kidneys. Adrenal insufficiency can be primary or secondary.
  • Primary adrenal insufficiency, also called Addison’s disease, occurs when the adrenal glands are damaged and cannot produce enough of the hormone cortisol and often the hormone aldosterone. Addison’s disease affects one to four of every 100,000 people, in all age groups and both sexes.

Spotting the signs and diagnosis

By:  Katherine White & Paul Margulies

Signs and symptoms

  • The slowly progressive loss of cortisol and aldosterone secretion usually produces a chronic, steadily worsening fatigue, a loss of appetite, and some weight loss.
  • Blood pressure is low and falls further when a person is standing, producing light-headedness.
  • Nausea, sometimes with vomiting, and diarrhoea are common.
  • The muscles are weak and often go into spasm.
  • There are often emotional changes, particularly irritability and depression.
  • Because of salt loss, a craving for salty foods is common.
  • Finally, the increase in ACTH due to the loss of cortisol will usually produce a darkening of the skin that may look like an inappropriate tan on a person who feels very sick.

Unfortunately, the slowly progressive chronic symptoms are usually missed or ignored until a sudden event like a flu virus, an accident, or the need for surgery suddenly precipitates a dramatic change for the worse because of the deficient response from the adrenals to one of these stresses. This is referred to as an Addisonian crisis  and is a medical emergency


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