Addison’s disease, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency or hypoadrenalism, is a rare and progressive disorder that affects approximately one person in every 10,000!
Adrenal glands are located on top of each kidney in the human body. These glands are part of the endocrine system, which works hand in hand with the nervous and immune systems to assist the body in responding to various situations and challenges. Addison’s disease develops when the adrenal glands cannot produce sufficient regulating hormones.
The adrenal medulla’s most well-known hormone is “adrenaline,” produced by the glands that line it (the central part of the gland). Additionally, the adrenal cortex (outer layer) produces critical hormones called corticosteroids, including cortisol, aldosterone, and supplemental sex hormones.
Addison’s disease primarily affects the adrenal cortex, causing your body to stop producing sufficient amounts of cortisol or aldosterone.
What are the causes of Addison’s disease?
Typically, this condition is caused by an immune system malfunction, which leads the immune system to attack the outer layer of the adrenal gland (the adrenal cortex), impairing the generation of the steroid hormones aldosterone and cortisol.
Adrenal gland damage can occur due to long-term diseases, including tuberculosis, HIV, and even some fungal infections. Addison’s disease can also be caused by cancer cells that move from other body parts to the adrenal glands.
Moreover, one can develop Addison’s disease due to a defect in the pituitary gland or the hypothalamus, which affects the adrenal glands in the brain’s center and causes “secondary adrenal insufficiency” or “tertiary insufficiency.” In other words, the hormones produced by these glands can be used as a switch to turn on or off hormone production throughout the body.
What are the symptoms of Addison’s disease?
Symptoms of this disease may include any or all of the following:
- Appetite and weight loss
- Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Muscle pain
- Persistent or intensifying fatigue
- Low blood pressure
- Salt cravings
- Hypoglycemic state (especially in children)
- Noticeable skin pigmentation, particularly around scars and bony areas in women who have irregular or no menstrual cycles
- Mood swings, mental confusion, or loss of consciousness
- Depression or other mental conditions
- Body hair loss or sexual dysfunction in women
These symptoms may develop and advance rapidly (particularly in children and adolescents) or gradually over the years. Also, numerous symptoms can be mistaken for other diseases, resulting in a delay in diagnosis.
How is Addison’s disease treated?
Addison’s disease symptoms can be controlled to a large extent with treatment. Most people with the condition live an average lifespan and can lead an active lifestyle with few restrictions. The treatment focuses on restoring the hormone levels that your body is not producing. Regardless of the severity of your symptoms, you will require hormone replacement therapy for the rest of your life.
Your doctor will recommend taking hydrocortisone tablets once or twice a day to compensate for lost cortisol. If you also have poor aldosterone levels, you’ll need to take daily oral dosages of fludrocortisone acetate, a mineralocorticoid.
Additionally, patients must also learn to manage episodes of fatigue and related health problems such as diabetes or hypothyroidism, and be aware of sudden deterioration of symptoms, referred to as an adrenal crisis. This can occur when your cortisol levels fall dramatically low due to another illness or not taking your medications.
If you ever experience an Addisonian crisis, seek medical attention immediately! Our doctors will administer hydrocortisone, saline (saltwater), and dextrose (sugar) injections. These substances aid in restoring normal blood pressure, blood sugar, and potassium levels.
Book your appointment at Novomed today!
Novomed’s endocrinologists in Dubai and Al Ain are experts in diagnosing and treating endocrine illnesses such as thyroid disease, diabetes, and adrenal gland dysfunction. Additionally, they are skilled in diagnosing and managing Addison’s Disease and any associated endocrine complications. Our board-certified doctors follow a comprehensive approach with their patients, providing detailed sessions to address any concerns.
To book an appointment or for any inquiries about our services, call us toll-free at 800 (NOVO) 6686 or click the live chat icon at the bottom of the screen.