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Alternative namesAdrenocortical hypofunction; Chronic adrenocortical insufficiency; Adrenal insufficiency
DefinitionAddison's disease is a hormone deficiency caused by damage to the outer layer of the adrenal gland (adrenal cortex).
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The adrenal glands are located on top of each kidney. They consist of the outer portion (called the cortex) and the inner portion (called the medulla). The cortex produces three types of hormones: sex hormones, glucocorticoid hormones, and mineralocorticoid hormones.
Addison's disease results from damage to the adrenal cortex, which causes decreased production of adrenocortical hormones. This damage may be caused by the following:
Risk factors for the autoimmune type of Addison's disease include other autoimmune diseases :
These may be caused by certain genetic defects.
Signs and tests
Replacement therapy with corticosteroids will control the symptoms of this disease. However, these drugs must usually be continued for life. Usually a combination of glucocorticoids (cortisone or hydrocortisone) and mineralocorticoids (fludrocortisone) are given.
Adrenal crisis is an extreme manifestation of symptoms of adrenal insufficiency precipiated by physical stress. Intravenous or intramuscular injection of hydrocortisone must be given immediately to sustain life. Supportive treatment for low blood pressure is usually necessary as well.
Also report sudden weight gain or fluid retention to the health care provider.
Expectations (prognosis)With adequate replacement therapy, most people with Addison's disease are able to lead normal lives.
ComplicationsComplications may result from the following associated illnesses:
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if Addison's disease has been diagnosed and stress such as infection, injury, trauma of any kind, or dehydrating illnesses occur. Medication adjustment may be indicated.
If symptoms of adrenal crisis (low blood pressure, diminished consciousness, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain) occur, give an emergency injection of prescribed medication as instructed or if this is not available, go to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911).
Update Date: 9/1/2002Todd T. Brown, M.D., Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT