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What is Addison's Disease?

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The adrenal glands, two triangular shaped glands which rest atop your kidneys, are responsible for the production of important hormones, including adrenaline and certain sex hormones.

When the adrenals are damaged for any reason, certain of these hormones may fail to be produced, or may be produced in insufficient amounts.

Addison's disease occurs when the adrenal glands are damaged and cannot produce enough of the hormone cortisol and often the hormone aldosterone. Addison’s disease can strike males and females at any age, but most commonly appears between the ages of 30 and 50. (http://www.mayoclinic.com)

Why are these hormones so important?
Cortisol helps:

•maintain levels of glucose—a form of sugar used for energy—in the blood
•regulate the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
•maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function
•slow the immune system’s inflammatory response

Any imbalance in the production of this hormone can be dangerous to the health of the system.


Aldosterone helps maintain blood pressure and water and salt balance in the body by helping the kidneys retain sodium and excrete potassium. Dangerously low levels of aldosterone eliminate the proper regulation of salt and water balance. This can become extremely life-threatening as it leads to a drop is both blood pressure and volume.

What are the symptoms of adrenal insufficiency?
The symptoms of adrenal insufficiency usually begin gradually. The most common symptoms are:

•chronic, worsening fatigue
•muscle weakness
•loss of appetite
•weight loss

Other symptoms can include:

•low blood pressure that falls further when standing, causing dizziness or fainting
•irritability and depression
•a craving for salty foods due to salt loss
•hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose
•in women, irregular or absent menstrual periods

Symptoms of an Addisonian or “adrenal” crisis include

•low blood pressure
•loss of consciousness
•sudden, penetrating pain in the lower back, abdomen, or legs
•severe vomiting and diarrhea

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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