Addison’s Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatments

This condition develops when your outer portion of the adrenal gland stops producing steroid hormones. Addison’s disease results from an autoimmune disorder, so your own immune system begins to attack themselves. In addition, this condition can develop in people who have infections in their adrenal glands or from the spread of cancer entering your adrenal glands. Even if blood enters the glands it can cause Addison’s disease. This disorder can happen at any age while affecting both male and female equally.


Symptom’s of Addison’s disease will gradually develop. It may take several for symptoms to appear, but they include a decreased appetite, darken skin (hyperpigmentation), low-blood pressure, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), salt craving, muscle weakness and fainting and fatigue.


If Addison’s disease is suspected, your doctor will recommend that you take a blood and urine test. These tests will take a measurement of corticosteroid hormones. If your doctor is uncertain, he may want to monitor your response to an adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) hormone and adrenal-stimulating hormone, which both are produced by your pituitary gland. The procedure is performed on the patient receiving an injection of synthetic ACTH, then the amount of hormones of your adrenal glands are measured.


People with Addison’s disease may need to go to the hospital immediately because it causes acute adrenal failure. This can be provoked by injury, infection, diarrhea, stress, vomiting or the use of diuretic drugs. Adrenal failure is a life-long condition. Left untreated it can be a life-threatening condition, which requires a person to take steroid hormones and intravenous (IV) salt solutions in order to maintain optimum health.

When your body is not producing enough steroid hormones the doctor may prescribe you to take one or more medications. The hormone medications will replace sufficient amount of hormone needed to treat the deficiency. The medications may include prednisone or hydrocortisone to replace cortisol. Fludrocortisone is a drug that will replace your aldosterone – this regulates your potassium and sodium levels and helps stabilize your blood pressure. These medications have to be taken daily to mimic the effects of missing hormones in your body. This will help minimize the effects that Addison’s disease causes. If you frequently get stressed, your doctor may want you to get therapy. This is to cope with stressful situations, or he may increase your hormone medication dosage. Not taking the dosage can lead to acute adrenal failure. A diet that includes adequate amount of sodium is recommended to treat the disorder.