A Rare Endocrine Disorder

Addison’s Disease, also known as adrenal insufficiency, is a condition that arises when the adrenal glands do not produce enough of their hormones. It is a rare disorder named after Dr. Thomas Addison, a British physician who identified the disease in 1849. It can develop in children and adults and occur as a result of many underlying causes. Causes The adrenal glands are tiny, hormone – discharging organs just above your kidneys. They are made up of two sections; the outer portion (called the cortex) and the inner portion (called the medulla). The cortex produces three types of hormones:

The glucocorticoid hormones which include cortisol maintain sugar glucose control, influence your body’s capability to convert food into energy, reduce immune response and aid your body to respond to anxiety. The mineralocorticoid hormones, such as aldosterone, preserve your body’s equilibrium of sodium and potassium to keep your blood pressure normal. The sex hormones, androgens (male) and estrogens (female) produce sexual development. Addison’s disease results from damage to the adrenal cortex. The failure of the glands to generate hormones is most commonly the effect of the body attacking itself (autoimmune disease).

For an unknown reason, the immune system views the adrenal cortex as alien, something to destroy. Other causes may include tuberculosis, HIV, infections of the adrenal glands, hemorrhage or tumors. Symptoms Maynard 2 The symptoms of Addison’s disease usually develop slowly and may include: Fatigue and muscle weakness Changes in blood pressure or heart rate Weight loss and decreased appetite Darkening of the skin, patchiness Salt craving Low blood sugar Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting Irritability of depression Mouth lesions inside the cheeks Sometimes, the symptoms of Addison’s disease may appear suddenly.

In acute adrenal failure (an extreme form of adrenal insufficiency), the signs may consist of: Pain in the lower back, abdomen or legs Severe vomiting and diarrhea Low blood pressure Loss of consciousness High potassium Treatment All treatment for the disease comprises hormone replacement therapy to modify the levels of hormones the body is not producing. Doctors usually prescribe a combination of cortisone or hydrocortisone and mineralocorticoids. As a rule, the medication will need to be taken for life. If you are vomiting and cannot take oral medications, injections may be given.

A liberal amount of sodium is suggested, especially during heavy exercise, during hot weather, or if you have an upset stomach or diarrhea. The Doctor may recommend a temporary increase in the dosage if you are facing stress, infection, injury or surgery. During a life-threatening situation like adrenal crisis, immediate medical care or injection of hydrocortisone is crucial. Supportive treatment for low blood pressure is typically required as well. You should also carry a medical alert card that states the type of medication and dosage Maynard 3 you would need in case of an emergency.

Extra medication and an injectable form of corticosteroids are also beneficial to have on hand. Prognosis With hormone replacement therapy, many people with Addison’s disease are able to lead normal lives. However, most patients need to take medication for life and it can be challenging to maintain correct levels of hormones. Addison’s disease is very rare, serious and sometimes life- threatening. Complications can arise if you are not taking the right dosage or the correct hormone supplement. Patient Story I read many stories from patients who suffer from this rare, horrible disease.

Thankfully, there is a lot of information, support groups and foundations online to help people who are struggling with this disorder. However, in most cases people complained how difficult it was to get a proper diagnosis, medication and accurate dosage for their needs. On November 21, 2010, Danny, a father of two from New York, wrote how frustrated he was with the lack of knowledge and concern he received from doctors. He had many of the symptoms; extreme fatigue, irritability, nausea, muscle pain and added stress with his strenuous job and two young children.

Danny and many others felt they were treated more like guinea pigs rather than well managed patients by their doctors. He felt so strongly that he wrote about starting a grass-roots organization to attract more research for the disease. He finally found a supportive endocrinologist and is doing better but realizes he will be on medication for the rest of his life and will never be the same. Through these support groups, it helps people share what their experience has been and express how they cope with this rare disorder; in an effort to give others hope. Bibliography.


Addison’s Disease – Mayo Clinic (December 4, 2012) Web. 12 January 2013 from www. mayoclinic. com/health/addisons-disease/DS00361 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER) Addison’s Disease – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 13 December 2012 Web. 10 January 2013 Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. From en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Addison’s-disease Addison’s Disease – PubMed Health (2012) A. D. A. M. , Inc. Web. 12 January 2013 from www. ncbi. nlm. nih. gov/pubmedhealth/ I Have Addison’s Disease/Support Group with Personal Stories (n. d. ) Web. 12 January 2013 from www. experienceproject. com/groups/haveAddisons-disease/88948.

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