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Last Updated: Oct 23, 2019

A Quick Guide To Addison's Disease!

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Dr. Shalabh AgrawalUrologist • 23 Years Exp.DNB (Urology), MS, MBBS
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Addison’s disease is known as adrenal insufficiency or hypocortisolism. It is a hormonal disorder which occurs when adrenal glands which are located just above the kidneys do not produce enough of the hormone. The hormones produced by adrenal glands include cortisol and aldosterone, which are essential for a healthy life.

The disease is characterized by weight loss, muscle weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure, and darkening of the skin also sometimes. Most cases of Addison's disease are caused by autoimmune disorders.
It is quite a rare condition. Only 1 in 1 lakh suffer from this condition. this condition can affect a person of any age group irrespective of sex. To live a normal life people, with this condition, a patient will be required to take their medication regularly.

Cortisol and Aldosterone - What do they do?
The most important function of the cortisol in the body is to respond to stress. It helps the body in using protein, carbohydrates, and fat. It maintains blood pressure, cardiovascular function; and controls inflammation. While as aldosterone helps kidneys in regulating the amount of salt and water in the body – which helps in regulating blood volume and keeping blood pressure under control.

Cause of Addison's Disease
Mostly Addison’s disease occurs due to problems with adrenal glands themselves – which is known as primary adrenal insufficiency. While Autoimmune disease accounts for 70% of Addison’s disease. In this condition, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the adrenal glands. This attack destroys the outer layer of the glands.

  • Some long-term infections such as tuberculosis, HIV, and some fungal infections harm the adrenal glands. It is also caused by the cancer cells that spread from other parts of the body to the adrenal glands.
  • Less commonly, adrenal glands can also be affected by secondary adrenal insufficiency. It is caused by a problem with the pituitary gland or a problem with the hypothalamus, both located in the center of the brain.
  • These glands produce hormones that control the production of hormones in the rest of the body. A pituitary hormone called ACTH which turns on cortisol production in the adrenal gland. If ACTH levels are too low, the adrenal glands do not function.
  • One more cause of secondary adrenal insufficiency is also caused by the prolonged or abuse of steroid hormones such as prednisone.

Symptoms of Addison's disease
The symptoms of adrenal insufficiency grow gradually and the main characteristics are:

About 50 percent of the time, one will notice: