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Addison's disease: definition, causes and symptoms


The addison's disease often also known as Addison's disease, it is a rare but serious disorder of adrenal gland, such that the body is no longer able to produce a sufficiently high number of two critical hormones, cortisol and aldosterone. Patients with Addison's disease will need hormone replacement therapy for life as there is currently no treatment that can address this deficiency.

What is Addison's disease

Before understanding what the causes and symptoms of this condition are, let's take a look at the definition of Addison's disease. To do this, we recall how this disease is a disorder in which the adrenal glands - that is, two glands above the kidneys - cannot produce enough cortisol and aldosterone hormones. These are two essential chemicals for the well-being of our body, which control the function of different tissues and organs.

In particular, the cortisol it helps the body to respond to stress, including what may arise from illness, injury or surgery. It also helps keep blood pressure, heart function, immune system, and blood glucose (sugar) levels in balance.

On the other hand, thealdosterone affects the balance of sodium and potassium in the blood. This in turn controls the amount of fluid the kidneys remove as urine, which affects blood volume and pressure.

Also for these reasons Addison's disease is also called as "primary adrenal insufficiency". A related disorder, the condition of "secondary adrenal insufficiency", occurs when the pituitary, a small gland at the base of the brain, does not secrete enough adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which activates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.

But how common is Addison's disease? And what are its main determining factors, and the symptoms that allow us to understand if you may actually be suffering from this disease?

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How common is Addison's disease

Fortunately, Addison's disease is a fairly rare disease, affecting approximately 1 in 100,000 people. There is no statistically significant incidence, in terms of differentiation, between men and women, considering that the disease affects both genders equally. Again, the disease affects all age groups, but is still statistically more common in the 30-50 age group.

What are the causes of Addison's disease

Addison's disease is caused by a autoimmune response, which occurs when our body's immune system (which is usually able to protect it from infection) attacks its own organs and tissues. With Addison's disease, however, the immune system begins to attack the outer part of the adrenal glands (the cortex), where cortisol and aldosterone are produced.

Other causes of Addison's disease include:

  • injury to the adrenal glands,
  • infections, including tuberculosis, HIV / AIDS-related infections and fungal infections,
  • cancer cells from another part of the body that have invaded the adrenal glands,
  • bleeding in the adrenal glands,
  • surgical removal of the adrenal glands,
  • amyloidosis (abnormal accumulation of certain proteins in organs),
  • genetic defects.

For a complete list of the potential causes of this disease, we naturally invite you to share your thoughts with the referring doctor, who will be able to explain what the most common determinants of this condition are.

What are the symptoms of Addison's disease

Damage to the adrenal glands occurs slowly over time and the symptoms come on gradually. However, the most common symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain,
  • abnormal menstrual periods,
  • craving for salty food,
  • dehydration,
  • depression,
  • diarrhea,
  • irritability,
  • dizziness or dizziness when standing up,
  • loss of appetite,
  • low blood sugar,
  • low blood pressure,
  • muscle weakness,
  • nausea,
  • areas of darkened skin, especially around scars, skin folds and joints,
  • sensitivity to cold,
  • unexplained weight loss,
  • He retched,
  • worsening of fatigue (extreme tiredness).

In some cases - such as following an injury, illness, or a period of intense stress - symptoms can come on quickly and cause a serious event, such as a crisis or acute adrenal insufficiency. An Addisonian crisis is a medical emergency that, if left untreated, can lead to shock and death.

Symptoms of a crisis include:

  • feeling restless, confused, afraid or other mental changes,
  • dehydration,
  • extreme weakness,
  • having difficulty staying awake, or a total loss of consciousness,
  • high fever,
  • stubbornness or feeling of weakness,
  • pallor,
  • severe vomiting and diarrhea,
  • sudden and deep pains in the lower back, belly or legs.

How Addison's Disease Is Diagnosed

To determine whether or not you have Addison's disease, your doctor may want to look at your symptoms and perform a physical exam. Dark spots on the skin could be a clue to consider.

However, a diagnosis will certainly not be made on the basis of the results of the physical examination alone. In fact, blood tests will certainly be required, carried out to measure the levels of sodium, potassium, cortisol and ACTH in the blood, and an ACTH stimulation test, which checks the response of the adrenal glands after receiving an injection of ACTH artificial. If the adrenal glands produce low cortisol levels after the injection, then they may not function properly.

In addition, x-rays or computed tomography (CT) scans may be required to evaluate the functioning of the adrenal and / or pituitary glands.


Video: Addisons Disease and Corticosteroids Part 1 (January 2022).