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The adrenal glands, which sit above the kidneys, are very important to your body as they secrete many important hormones. These hormones are required to regulate many functions within the body. The two most important hormones that these glands produce are ‘cortisol’ and ‘aldosterone’. When your body suffers from the condition of Addison’s disease, the glands end up producing very little amounts of these hormones. This will result in many functions in the body being adversely affected.
How do you know your loved one is suffering from Addison’s disease?
Addison’s disease develops overtime and doesn’t happen immediately. However, you would be able to notice some of the following symptoms:
Drop in blood pressure which may result in fainting as well
Development of darker skin due to hyperpigmentation
Development of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar
Unexpected weight loss and a decreased appetite in general
Craving for salt
Irritability and depression
Vomiting, nausea and diarrhea
Muscle and joint pains
Of these, if you start seeing a combination of frequent hyperpigmentation, muscle and joint pains, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, extreme fatigue and unexplained weight loss, you should take your loved one to the doctor immediately as these are telltale signs of Addison’s disease.
There are no ways to self-diagnose this disease as it requires proper medical tests. Some of the medical tests that may be advised for this are:
Blood tests: These are done to measure the levels of sodium, potassium and cortisol in your blood.
ACTH tests: This is a test to determine the exact levels of ‘cortisol’ in your blood and whether it is being produced normally or not.
Hypoglycemia test: This is a test to measure whether adrenal glands are producing enough hormones to regulate insulin. If blood sugar is low, it will indicate problems with the adrenal glands.
Imaging tests: Other tests, such as CT scans may also be prescribed to detect problems within your adrenal glands.
Steps to manage Addison’s disease
Pay regular visits to your doctor: This is very important along with regular tests and checkups as other dependent functions may be damaged and suddenly become life threatening. It may fall on you to take your loved one to a doctor regularly for this reason.
Carry bracelets which have your medical information: If your loved one has a tendency to faint due to the problems caused by Addison’s disease, it is important that you ensure they always carry bracelets with medical information with them. This way, strangers will be able to recognize the problem and get help quickly in emergency situations.
Always keep extra medications: This is a very important point as missing a couple of daily doses and medication can result in sudden deterioration of your loved one's’ condition. Have all other forms of administering medications handy as well such as syringes among others. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult an Endocrinologist.