Consult Online With India's Top Doctors
Common Specialities
{{speciality.keyWord}}
Common Issues
{{issue.keyWord}}
Common Treatments
{{treatment.keyWord}}

Addison's Disease - What You Should Know About it

Written and reviewed by
Dr.K Sridhar 90% (550ratings)
MBBS & Post Graduate Course in Diabetology, Fellow of Academy of General Education (FAGE), CCEBDM, Certificate course in management of Thyroid disorders-CCMTD, RSSDI life member
Diabetologist, Bangalore  •  21years experience
Addison's Disease - What You Should Know About it

While cold and cough are common, diseases like Addison’s disease are rare. It is also known as chronic adrenal insufficiency or hypocortisolism as it is a result of insufficient production of hormones like cortisol and aldosterone by the adrenal glands. This disease can affect men and women of any age.

There are two types of Addison’s disease. These are:

  1. Primary adrenal insufficiency: In this case, the adrenal glands themselves have a problem.
  2. Secondary adrenal insufficiency: If the hormone production in the adrenal glands is restricted by a problem that has started somewhere else like the pituitary gland, for example, it is known as secondary adrenal insufficiency.

Primary adrenal insufficiency is more common of the two. This could be triggered as a result of autoimmune diseases or a long lasting infection such as HIV, tuberculosis and some fungal infections. Cancer can also cause this type of Addison’s disease.

Secondary adrenal insufficiency is usually caused by a problem with the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus as they are responsible for the production of hormones that stimulate the adrenal glands. Damage caused to the pituitary gland by tumors or radiation and surgery can also interfere with hormone production. Prolonged and improper use of steroid hormones can also trigger this condition.

Addison’s disease has a very slow progression and its symptoms develop gradually over time. Some of these symptoms are:

  1. Weight loss and loss of appetite
  2. Extreme fatigue
  3. Hyperpigmentation
  4. Low blood pressure
  5. Craving for salt
  6. Nausea and diarrhea
  7. Pain in the abdomen and joint pains
  8. Irritability
  9. Depression
  10. Loss of body hair and sexual dysfunction in women

Treatment for Addison’s disease involves hormone replacement therapy. This aims at correcting the hormone levels in the body. Hormone replacement therapy includes oral corticosteroids and corticosteroid injections. The dosage of these steroids could vary depending on the situation. For example, the doctor may suggest a temporary high dosage when the patient is in a stressful condition. Along with this, sodium is also recommended especially during the summer months and while exercising. This medication must be taken regularly as skipping a single dose can be dangerous.

In some cases this condition can become life threatening. An addisonian crisis causes a drop in blood pressure, sugar and a spike in potassium levels in the body. This requires immediate medical attention and can be treated with intravenous injections of hydrocortisone, saline solution and sugar. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult an endocrinologist..

2945 people found this helpful