Encyclopedia

Addison’s disease

Description

Addison’s disease develops when the glands located above the kidneys are unable to synthesize enough of the hormone cortisol and sometimes aldosterone.

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The body needs these hormones to function normally. Cortisol’s function is to help the body cope with excessive physical stress which can be caused by illness, injury, surgery, childbirth and other causes.

And the function of aldosterone is to retain the necessary amounts of salt in the body and thus keep blood pressure stable.

Usually, the concentration of these hormones is in dynamic equilibrium with the hormones released by the hypothalamus and pituitary gland.

This gland synthesizes adenocorticotropic hormone /ACTH/, which stimulates the release of cortisol or aldosterone from the adrenal glands. But in Addison’s disease, the adrenal glands cannot synthesize enough of these hormones.

If you suffer from this disease, you must take medication for the rest of your life to replace the hormones that your body cannot synthesize. If left untreated, the disease can cause adrenal crisis, which can lead to death due to a sudden drop in blood pressure.

What are the symptoms?

• Very tired;
• Weakness;
• Unexplained weight loss;

Other symptoms are possible:

• Skin looks darker than usual;
• Loss of appetite;
• Diarrhea;
• Dizziness;
• Nausea or vomiting;
• Craving for salt;

If you have diabetes, your blood sugar may drop more often than usual and hypoglycemia may be more severe than usual.

Symptoms usually come on slowly. You may not notice them until your body is under a lot of stress such as severe infection, trauma, surgery or dehydration.

It is possible to develop an adrenal crisis under such severe stress because the body cannot synthesize enough cortisol to cope with the stress.

In some cases, patients’ condition deteriorates rapidly and by the time they reach the doctor they will most likely be in a state of adrenal crisis.

What happens in an adrenal crisis?

The inability of the adrenal glands to synthesize enough cortisol to cope with extreme stress can cause the following symptoms:

• Profuse vomiting and diarrhea;
• Sudden pain in the abdomen, lower back and legs;
• Fever;
• Feeling very weak or dizzy;
• A feeling of restlessness, confusion and fear;
• The affected person wakes up with great difficulty and may fall asleep very quickly afterwards.

Call your doctor right away if you have these symptoms. If adrenal crisis is not treated, death from shock or a sudden drop in blood pressure can occur.

Treatment of Addison’s disease

If you have been diagnosed with the disease, you can do the following at home:

Take enough salt with the food you eat, salt is very important for maintaining the water balance in the body. It is also necessary to add extra amounts of salt to food, in hot and humid weather and during exercise or profuse sweating.
• Monitor your weight constantly, especially if you have no appetite or have recently vomited;
• Measure regularly your blood pressure and let your doctor know if it fluctuates and is sometimes very high and other times very low.
• Have regular check-ups – this will make it easier to monitor your symptoms and hormone levels.
br/> • Prepare when you know you will be exposed to stress.

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