Addisons Disease – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

By | June 29, 2015

Facts on Addison’s Disease :

Addison’s disease is a hormonal disorder marked by muscular weakness and loss of weight. It is caused by the condition of adrenal insufficiency where enough quantities of cortisol are not produced. People with Addison’s disease may not have both cortisol and aldosterone hormone. It can develop due to autoimmune disorder or due to TB infection also. Some of the symptoms of this disease are loss of appetite, muscle weakness, sharp pain in the abdomen and lower back, and loss of weight. In severe cases it can cause reduced blood pressure and loss of consciousness. The disease can be treated by effective substitution of these hormones of adrenal glands. Addison’s disease can develop in any age group and sex and sometimes it can be potentially dangerous.

Symptoms Of Addisons Disease :

The signs of Addison’s disease normally develop gradually and it may take weeks or months to show the first symptom. Some of the common symptoms of this disease are fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, low blood pressure, hyper-pigmentation (darkened skin), loss of weight, joint pain, low blood sugar, craving for salt and loss of hair.

For some people it can cause reduced sex drive or libido. In severe cases it can cause acute failure of adrenal glands causing symptoms like loss of consciousness, very low blood pressure, and sharp pain in the abdomen, consistent vomiting and dehydration and high potassium levels in your blood.

Addisons Disease Causes :

Insufficient amount of adrenal hormone is the major cause for Addison’s disease. It is also called by other names like hypocortisolism or adrenal insufficiency. Cortisol is the hormone produced in adrenal glands found just above your kidneys. This hormone is one of the vital hormones of your body which affects the function of every organ. The major functions of cortisol are to maintain blood pressure, function of insulin (another hormone that controls blood sugar), to regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins and to maintain stress effectively. It also helps in proper wakening and creates a sense of well-being.

Sufficient amount of cortisol may not be produced if the adrenal glands does not receive signal from the pituitary gland of the brain which is categorized as secondary adrenal insufficiency. Addison’s disease can also be caused by severe TB infection and cancer of adrenal glands. These are marked as primary adrenal insufficiency.

Diagnosis :

In case your doctor suspects Addison’s disease he may order for series of tests like blood profile (to check the level of sodium and potassium), ACTH stimulation test (to measure the cortisol level) and hypoglycemia test. If required he may order for imaging tests like X-rays, CT scan of the abdomen. In case he suspects problem in your pituitary gland, MRI scan will be done.

Treatment :

The objective of the treatment is to replace the loss of hormone and restore the levels of hormone. You will be prescribed oral corticosteroids like fludrocortisones or cortef to replace the loss of cortisol. In severe cases your doctor will directly inject corticosteroid to prevent dehydration. Androgen replacement is done by prescribing dehydroepiandrosterone. If the level of sodium is low in your blood you will be given supplementary sodium.

Addisonian crisis is potentially dangerous condition that would lower your blood sugar levels and blood pressure. In serious cases, the patient should be hospitalized immediately and given hydrocortisone intravenously along with dextrose. With rapid treatment recovery is fully possible and any delay in treating this crisis can become fatal. The patient with Addison’s disease should carry an identity card along with medical card so that in case of emergency he/she can be given immediate treatment. You can carry vital medications with you in small quantities to meet any emergency situations.

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