Addison’s disease: causes, symptoms, treatment

Addison’s disease is caused by the adrenal cortex producing too little cortisol and aldosterone. Addison’s disease is an autoimmune disease and is twice as common in women as in men. What are the causes and symptoms of Addison’s disease. How is the disease diagnosed and how can it be treated? President John F. Kennedy suffered from Addison’s disease.

Article content

  • Adrenal glands
  • Addison’s disease
  • Primary, secondary or tertiary adrenocortical insufficiency
  • Causes of Addison’s disease
  • Symptoms of Addison’s disease
  • Addison’s crisis
  • Diagnosis Addison’s disease
  • Treatment of Addison’s disease
  • User of corticosteroid medications

Adrenal glands

  • The adrenal glands, or suprarenale glands, are two small glands, each located at the top of a kidney. The shape of the adrenal glands is triangular and they are about five centimeters long. An adrenal gland consists of two parts: the outer layer/bark (cortex) and the central part/medulla.
  • The adrenal medulla makes dopamine, andrenaline and norepinephrine. The adrenal cortex, stimulated by the hormone ACTH (from the pituitary gland), produces corticosteroids, androgens and aldosterone.
  • Diseases resulting from a disturbance in the production of hormones of the adrenal cortex: Addison’s disease, Conn’s syndrome, Cushing’s syndrome, adrenogenital syndrome. A disorder of the adrenal medulla: pheochromocytoma (tumor).

Addison’s disease

The name of the disease comes from T. Addison, an English physician who lived from 1793 to 1860. In someone with Addison’s disease, there are too few corticosteroid hormones in the blood, which changes the metabolism. Addison’s disease is twice as common in women as in men. Sometimes the disease runs in families. How old someone is and how someone lives are not significant factors. Corticosteroids play a role in metabolism, but also in regulating blood pressure and water balance in the body.

Primary, secondary or tertiary adrenocortical insufficiency

  1. Officially, Addison’s disease only occurs in primary adrenocortical insufficiency . The cause lies in the adrenal gland itself.
  2. In the secondary form, the cause lies outside the adrenal gland, but within the body.
  3. In the tertiary form, the cause lies outside the body. This form can, for example, be caused by medication.

Causes of Addison’s disease

  • Very often, damage to the adrenal gland is caused by an autoimmune disorder: the body attacks its own tissue.
  • Other causes, which are not common: HIV infection, AIDS, insufficient stimulation by the pituitary gland, tuberculosis and shock.
  • The release of corticosteroids is also slowed down if someone takes corticosteroid medications for a longer period of time. If someone suddenly stops taking it, the amount of natural corticosteroid can suddenly decrease and become very low.

Symptoms of Addison’s disease

It is difficult to detect the disease at an early stage, because the symptoms develop very gradually and sometimes a temporary improvement occurs spontaneously.

The most common symptoms :

  • A feeling of weakness;
  • Dizziness: result of low blood pressure;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Vomit;
  • Slimming;
  • Brown discoloration of skin and mucous membrane;
  • Confusion and difficulty concentrating;
  • Muscle weakness;
  • Anemia or anemia;
  • Chronic diarrhea;
  • High cravings for salty foods: salt cravings;
  • Hyperventilation;
  • Backache.

Addison’s crisis

The disease can sometimes worsen suddenly. This happens when cortisol levels drop significantly or when a person is ill or injured. There is a lot of loss of salt and water and this leads to dehydration and pain in the abdomen. vomiting and a restless feeling. Shock and coma may occur and without treatment the person may die quickly.

Diagnosis Addison’s disease

If the doctor suspects Addison’s disease, the blood will be tested for sodium, potassium and cortisol levels. An injection can be given with a substance that stimulates the adrenal glands to produce hydrocortisone. If blood tests subsequently show that the amount of hydrocortisone has not increased, the person probably has Addison’s disease.

Treatment of Addison’s disease

Corticosteroids are usually prescribed for Addison’s disease, to be taken orally. In the event of a severe attack or if someone is unable to swallow, corticosteroid injections can be used. In case of stress and illness, additional corticosteroids may be necessary. If there is an underlying cause, it will need to be addressed. If the cortisol concentration is very low, immediate treatment will be required. Fluids and glucose will be administered intravenously and corticosteroid injections will be given.

User of corticosteroid medications

Wear a card or bracelet stating that you are taking these medications. This is in case a crisis occurs.