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Causes and Symptoms of Addison’s disease

Causes and Symptoms of Addison
Atefa Noorain
Atefa Noorain
January30/ 2017


Addison’s disease is a common diseased condition that occurs when your adrenal glands produces insufficient amount of hormones in your body. During Addison’s disease your adrenal glands produces very less amount of cortisol and aldosterone in your body.

Addison’s disease is commonly known as adrenal insufficiency. This condition is seen in all age groups and affects both men and women. Addison’s disease can be life-threatening if left untreated. Additional hormones are usually taken to treat Addison’s disease.

Adrenal glands are generally located on the top of your kidneys. Addison’s disease mainly occurs when the damage is caused to adrenal cortex and the adrenal glands are unable to produce sufficient amount of steroid hormones.

Cortisol hormone is mainly responsible for regulating the body’s reaction to stressful situations whereas; aldosterone helps with sodium and potassium regulation.  Adrenal cortex is known to produce sex hormones called androgen in your body. Any damage to adrenal gland can disturb the hormonal level in your body.

Addison’s disease Symptoms

The common symptoms associated with Addison’s disease include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Skin tanning or darkening of skin color
  • Weight loss
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Sores in mouth
  • Salt craving
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability or Depression

When Addison’s disease is left untreated it can become Addison’s crisis which is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate medical attention.

During Addison’s crisis the following factors are common:

  • Mental disturbance or restlessness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • High fever
  • Sudden pain in lower back, legs or belly

Addison’s disease Causes

Addison’s disease is classified into two categories:

  1. Primary adrenal insufficiency

Primary adrenal insufficiency usually occurs when the adrenal glands are damaged so severely and they no longer produce hormones. Primary adrenal insufficiency is seen in cases when your immune system attacks adrenal glands. It is generally considered as an autoimmune disease.

Other causes of primary adrenal insufficiency include:

  • Prolonged administration of glucocorticoids like prednisone
  • Infections in your body
  • Abnormal growth of cells or cancer
  • Blood thinning medicines used to control clotting
  1. Secondary adrenal insufficiency

Secondary adrenal insufficiency occurs when your pituitary glands are unable to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH is responsible for signaling the adrenal glands to release hormones in your body.

Adrenal insufficiency also develops when you discontinue the corticosteroid medications that are prescribed by your doctor. Corticosteroid helps in controlling chronic health conditions like asthma.

Addison’s disease Risk Factors

The factors that can increase the risk of Addison’s disease include:

  • When you are suffering with cancer or any abnormal growth, it can increase your chances of Addison’s disease.
  • When you take anticoagulants or blood thinning medication
  • Tuberculosis also increase the risk of Addison’s disease
  • Surgery to remove any part of the adrenal gland
  • Autoimmune disease like type 1 diabetes or Graves disease

Addison’s disease needs proper medical attention for complete cure. Addison’s disease can be cured on early diagnosis. The diagnosis and treatment purely depend on the causes and type of Addison’s disease.

Atefa Noorain
Atefa Noorain

Atefa Noorain, (Microbiologist) former Head of the Department of Life Sciences, Assistant Professor of Microbiology at Sujatha Degree College for Women. She worked as an Associate Research Analyst at Thomson Reuters and an Associate Editor of two research journals. She has presented her research work in 3 International Conferences. She has written articles for national journals and international journals. She had been felicitated as a Young Speaker in the last conference. She has worked on Nanoparticles as a part of her research project and won the Best Scientist of the Day award.

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