Autoimmunity is a major health issue among women, according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, Inc. Overall, autoimmune diseases affect 20 percent of Americans and 75 percent of those are likely women. There are also more than 80 autoimmune diseases that have been identified, according to the National Institute of Allergy an Infectious Diseases.
More specifically, Addison’s disease, also called primary adrenal insufficiency, is a type of autoimmune disease that affects the adrenal glands, according to the National Adrenal Diseases Foundation. One of the major causes of Addison’s disease is the near or total destruction of the adrenal cortex by antibodies, which attack the adrenal cortex’s cells. Of course, these antibodies are made unnecessarily by the body’s immune system.
Some common symptoms of Addison’s disease are fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, low blood pressure lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weak muscles, muscle spasms, irritability, depression, cravings for salty foods and a darkening of the skin, according to NADF.
Thankfully, Addison’s disease can be treated by medication and regular doctor visits.
Recently, Addison’s disease was in the news with the release of information on the late president John F. Kennedy. According to the Los Angeles Times, Kennedy had Addison’s disease, which may have been caused by a rare autoimmune disease. He also was later diagnosed with hypothyroidism. The two diseases have similar symptoms. Some of his relatives also had problems with Addison’s disease and an overactive thyroid.
It seems that research on Addison’s disease only started recently, considering that the NADF lists the first survey of people in North America with Addison’s disease happened in 1997.
In the survey of 699 respondents, 76.6 percent of those who had Addison’s disease were women. Of those with the specific disease, 98.6 percent were white. For those diagnosed with the disease, 28.7 percent took one to six months to arrive at the realization and correct diagnosis.