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What Is Addison’s Disease?

Not many people have heard of Addison’s disease—in fact, unless you suffer from it, you may not even know that it exists. Those who have Addison’s disease have malfunctioning adrenal glands. These glands do not produce enough of some hormones, specially aldosterone and cortisol. These two hormones are essential to a number of functions, and without them, it’s even possible to die. Treatment generally involves taking replacement hormones for the rest of the patient’s life. Addison’s disease can affect anyone of any age.

Symptoms of Addison’s Disease

Those who have Addison’s disease may not notice their symptoms at first because they come on so slowly. It may take several months for any of these symptoms to become really noticeable. Here are some of the issues you may notice if you have Addison’s Disease:

• Your skin’s pigmentation may get darker
• You may experience extreme fatigue
• You may have a decrease in appetite
• You may lose a lot of weight
• You may feel faint
• Your blood pressure may lower
• You may have a sudden craving for salt
• You may experience vomiting, diarrhea, or nausea
• You might experience low blood sugar
• You may have pain in your joints, muscles, or abdomen
• You may feel depressed or irritable
• You may notice that you’ve lost some body hair

If you have acute adrenal failure, these symptoms may come on much more suddenly. You may even notice major pain in your lower back or legs, get dehydrated due to excessive diarrhea or vomiting, or even lose consciousness. If you have any of these issues, you’ll want to see a doctor immediately.

What Causes this Issue?

Addison’s disease is caused by damage to the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands can be found above the kidneys, and they are a part of the endocrine system. The hormones they produce affect almost every type of tissue and organ in the body, which is why it’s so dangerous when these glands are damaged. These hormones, which include the glucocorticoids, mineralocorticoids, and androgens, are vital to your body. When the outer layer of the glands, called the cortex, is damaged, it no longer produces the right amount of hormones.

What causes this? The main cause is an autoimmune disease. For whatever reason, these diseases cause the body’s immune system to see the adrenal cortex as a foreign threat, so it actually attacks it. There are other causes, too, such as cancer, infection, internal bleeding near the adrenal glands, and tuberculosis.


Treating Addison’s disease means taking hormone replacements. These usually fall into two categories: oral corticosteroids, which are taken as pills on a daily basis, or corticosteroid injections. The injections are needed if you’re vomiting and cannot keep oral medication down.


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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to treat, diagnose, or cure any diseases.