Site Map

Addison disease

Adrenocortical hypofunction; Chronic adrenocortical insufficiency; Primary adrenal insufficiency

Addison disease is a disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones.

Images

Endocrine glands

I Would Like to Learn About:

Causes

The adrenal glands are small hormone-releasing organs located on top of each kidney. They are made up of an outer portion, called the cortex, and an inner portion, called the medulla.

The cortex produces 3 hormones:

Addison disease results from damage to the adrenal cortex. The damage causes the cortex to produce hormone levels that are too low.

This damage may be caused by the following:

Risk factors for the autoimmune type of Addison disease include other autoimmune diseases:

Certain rare genetic defects may also cause adrenal insufficiency.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Addison disease include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about the symptoms.

Blood tests will likely be ordered and may show:

Additional laboratory tests may be ordered.

Other tests may include:

Treatment

Treatment with replacement corticosteroids and mineralocorticoids will control the symptoms of this disease. These medicines usually need to be taken for life.

Never skip doses of your medicine for this condition because life-threatening reactions may occur.

Your provider may tell you to increase your dosage for a short time because of:

During an extreme form of adrenal insufficiency, called adrenal crisis, you must inject hydrocortisone right away. Treatment for low blood pressure is usually needed as well.

Some people with Addison disease are taught to give themselves an emergency injection of hydrocortisone during stressful situations. Always carry medical ID (card, bracelet, or necklace) that says you have adrenal insufficiency. The ID should also say the type of medicine and dosage you need in case of an emergency.

Outlook (Prognosis)

With hormone therapy, many people with Addison disease are able to lead a nearly normal life.

Possible Complications

Complications can occur if you take too little or too much adrenal hormone.

Complications also may result from the following related illnesses:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if:

If you have symptoms of adrenal crisis, give yourself an emergency injection of your prescribed medicine. If it is not available, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911.

Symptoms of adrenal crisis include:

Related Information

Adrenal glands
Immune response
Pulmonary tuberculosis
Autoimmune disorders
Type 1 diabetes
Hypoparathyroidism
Hypopituitarism
Pernicious anemia
Graves disease
Chronic thyroiditis (Hashimoto disease)
Thrush - children and adults
Dermatitis herpetiformis
Vitiligo
Myasthenia gravis
Diabetes
Hyperthyroidism
Premature Ovarian Failure
Testicular failure

References

Barthel A, Willenberg HS, Gruber M, Bornstein SR. Adrenal insufficiency. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 102.

Napier C, Pearce SH. Current and emerging therapies for Addison's disease. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2014;21(3):147-153. PMID: 24755997 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24755997.

Nieman LK. Adrenal cortex. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 227.

BACK TO TOP

Review Date: 5/7/2017  

Reviewed By: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

ADAM Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, for Health Content Provider (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2019 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.