Addison’s disease is severe but a rare adrenal gland disorder where the human body can’t produce the two critical hormones, aldosterone and cortisol. Typically, people with Addison’s disease need hormone replacement therapy. The condition is also known as hypoadrenalism or primary adrenal insufficiency. Addison’s is more common among people between the ages of 30–50 and more common in women than men.
Symptoms of Addison’s disease
Early signs of Addison’s are similar to normal health conditions like flu or clinical depression. The symptoms include:
- Weakening in muscles
- Low energy or motivation
- Unintentional or abrupt weight loss
- Loss of mood
- Often thirsty
- Loss of appetite
When the Addison’s gets severe, one might experience other symptoms like:
- Often fainting
- Developing small areas of darkened skin
- Dark lips or gums
Most of the time, the symptoms might be a sign of other normal health conditions, but it’s better to consult a health professional when these signs occur.
Reason for Addison’s disease
The usual reason for Addison’s disease is issues with the immune system. When the immune system weakens, the upper or the outer layer of the adrenal gland or cortex gets attacked. It disrupts the regular production of cortisol and the steroid hormone aldosterone. The other potential condition may include tuberculosis (TB), which is rare. Other reasons for Addison’s include:
- Cancer cells invade the adrenal gland
- Bleeding adrenal gland
- Surgical removal of the adrenal gland
- An unnatural buildup of specific proteins
Treatment for Addison’s disease
The standard treatment method for Addison’s disease is the medicine that can replace the missing hormones. Likely, the treatment can continue for the rest of the life if one has been diagnosed with Addison’s. The symptoms of Addison’s are primarily controlled with proper treatment. People with the disease can lead a normal and active lifestyle with a few limitations and have an expected lifespan. Most of them with Addison’s might learn to manage episodes or bouts of fatigue, and those fatigues can also be the reason for underactive thyroid or diabetes.
Look out for Addison’s disease
Everyone should be aware of the risks of Addison’s worse symptom, called an adrenal crisis. The adrenal crisis occurs when the cortisol level in the body falls significantly, it can be fatal if left untreated. So when people with Addison’s undergo severe symptoms, it should be considered a medical emergency, and it’s most advisable to call for an ambulance.
Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD Microbiology
Page last reviewed: 23 JUNE 2022