| Risk Factors
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.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Addison's disease is the result of gradual damage to the outer layer of the adrenal gland.
This damage may be caused by:
- An autoimmune reaction—the body's own immune system attacks the gland
Bleeding within the adrenal glands—related to the use of anticoagulant medications and
- Surgical complication
- Conditions that are present at birth or due to genetic factors such as enzyme defects and familial glucocorticoid insufficiency
Certain cancers, including those that have spread
- Certain medications
Chronic disorders, such as:
Factors that may increase your chance Addison's disease include:
Autoimmune disorders, such as:
- Anticoagulant medications
- Abdominal injury
- Family members with autoimmune-caused Addison's disease
Long-term steroid medication treatment, followed by:
- Severe stress
- Previous surgery on adrenal glands
- Hereditary disorders, such as Prader-Willi syndrome and congenital adrenal hyperplasia
Symptoms may include:
- Extreme weakness, fatigue
- Weight loss
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle weakness
- Darkening of freckles, nipples, scars, skin creases, gums, mouth, nail beds, and vaginal lining
Emotional changes, especially
- Cognitive impairment or confusion
- Craving salty foods
- Abdominal pain
A severe complication of Addison's disease is the Addisonian or
. Adrenal crisis is a life threatening disorder, its symptoms include:
- High or low body temperature
- Severe abdominal, back, or leg pain
- Severe dehydration
- Severe nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Bluish skin color
- Muscle weakness
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:
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
ACTH stimulation test
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:
- Self-injection of dexamethasone
- Hydrocortisone by IV
- Normal saline by IV
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. If you think you are at risk, talk to your doctor.