Addison’s Disease

A disorder where the adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol.

Addison’s disease is also known as primary adrenal insufficiency. An autoimmune disease that causes the adrenal glands to not produce enough of a hormone called cortisol.

Normally, cortisol plays a role in managing our stress response, maintaining blood pressure, managing the immune system, and in energy metabolism. In Addison’s Disease the adrenal glands are damaged and do not produce enough cortisol leading to the symptoms of Addison’s disease and potentially adrenal crisis.

Symptoms of Addison’s Disease

  • Pain in the muscles and joints
  • Symptoms of hypoglycemia
  • Low blood pressure leading to dizziness upon standing
  • Patches of darker skin
  • Craving for salt
  • Irregular menstrual cycles in women

Adrenal Crisis

Stress on the body may cause the symptoms of Addison’s disease to become much worse leading to an emergency condition called adrenal crisis. Symptoms of adrenal crisis include sudden severe pain in the back, abdomen, and legs, severe nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, and fainting. Adrenal crisis can lead to death if not treated. Adrenal crisis requires an injection of glucocorticoids immediately and then treatment in a hospital. Patients with Addison’s disease should wear a medic alert bracelet.

Resources

Addison’s disease affects approximately 4 in 100,000 people.