Gradual, progressive destruction of the adrenal glands,
which are located over the kidneys. The adrenal glands
secrete several hormones that are essential to a number of
body functions. These hormones help to maintain body
fluid balance and are involved in sugar and protein metabolism,
maintenance of blood pressure, and response to
physical stress. Addison's is rare, but can occur in all age
groups and about equally in men and women. Symptoms
may develop slowly over months or years.
Frequent signs and symptoms
Weakness and fatigue.
Gastrointestinal disturbances (nausea, vomiting, abdominal
pain, diarrhea, and appetite and weight loss).
Low blood pressure causing faintness and dizziness.
Brownish skin (looks suntanned) with white patches.
Darkening of freckles, scars and nipples.
Feeling cold all the time.
Dramatic behavior or mood changes, including aggression
Symptoms and signs are caused by low levels of cortisone-
like hormones produced by the adrenal glands. The
cause of adrenal insufficiency is usually unknown, but is
believed to be an autoimmune disorder.
It also may be a consequence of the following disorders:
tuberculosis, cancer, pituitary disease, AIDS.
Use of oral cortisone drugs for other conditions. When
cortisone is withdrawn, normal adrenal function sometimes
does not return.
Don't discontinue use of cortisone drugs or change the
dosage without medical advice.
If diagnosed in early stages, the symptoms can be controlled
with hormone-replacement treatment, and a normal
lifestyle can be maintained.
In advanced stage, this disorder is fatal without treatment.
Adrenal crisis (pains, weakness, low blood pressure,
high or low temperature, fainting) caused by injury or illness.
Misdiagnosis as a mental condition.
Increased susceptibility to infections.
Addison's Disease Treatment
Diagnostic tests may include laboratory blood studies
and the metyrapone test to measure adrenal function.
This is a life-long condition. Learn how to care for yourself.
Strict attention to medication schedules is vital.
Learn about adrenal crisis and its relationship to body
stress (infection, surgery or injury).
Advise any doctor and dentist who treats you that you
have Addison's disease.
If you live or travel where medical care is not readily
available, you should be given instructions on giving yourself
cortisone injections in case of emergency.
Wear a medical alert type bracelet or pendant to indicate
you have Addison's disease and the name of the drug and
dosage that you take.
Stay up-to-date on immunizations, including those for
influenza and pneumonia.
Hospitalization for an adrenal crisis.
Further information is available from the National
Addison's Disease Foundation
Addison's disease Medication
You will be prescribed one of several types of cortisone
drugs. A mineralocortoid often is needed to help control
salt and mineral balance. Follow medication schedule exactly.
Never change or omit medication without doctor's
Special diet may be necessary (e.g., one to maintain proper
balance of sodium and potassium or to increase protein or
Notify your physician if
You or a family member has symptoms of Addison's
disease, especially an adrenal crisis. Call immediately.
Adrenal crisis is an emergency!
The following occur after diagnosis:
Any signs of infection, such as fever, chills, muscle aches, headache and dizziness.
Serious injury, such as bone fracture, dislocation or internal injuries.
You are scheduled for elective surgery or require anesthesia
for any reason.
New, unexplained symptoms develop. Drugs used in
treatment may produce side effects, such as protruding
abdomen, thin extremities, puffy face and eyes, acne and
growth of facial hair.