Addison’s Disease in Children: What Parents Should Know

mother holds sick child’s hand

Story at-a-glance -

  • Addison’s disease is probably one of the most pernicious conditions to be wary of. Since it can affect any age group, children are susceptible to its severe symptoms
  • Here’s everything you need to know about Addison’s disease in children and what you can do to improve your child’s quality of life

It’s heartbreaking for any parent to see your child suffering from any type of illness, and Addison’s disease is probably one of the most pernicious conditions to be wary of. Since it can affect any age group, children are susceptible to its severe symptoms.

Here’s everything you need to know about Addison’s disease in children and what you can do to improve your child’s quality of life.

What Causes Childhood Addison’s Disease?

Generally, Addison’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands are destroyed or damaged, which then hampers their production of two important hormones: cortisol and aldosterone. In children, this is usually brought on by an autoimmune disease such as Type 1 diabetes.1,2 In some cases, it may also be brought on by:3,4

  • Cancer
  • Infections
  • Rare genetic diseases
  • Use of corticosteroids like prednisone to treat inflammatory bowel disease, asthma or certain cancers
  • Using medications for fungal infections that can block corticosteroid production in the adrenal glands

In some cases, Addison’s disease may have a hereditary factor. It may be inherited as an X-linked trait — this means that the gene that caused the condition is found on the X chromosome that is passed on by a mother to her child. When this is the cause of Addison’s, the symptoms of the condition can manifest in childhood or adolescence.5

Watch Out for These Symptoms

The symptoms of Addison’s disease are usually seen when the child experiences physical stress. There are hallmark indicators, but they occur differently in patients. These include:6,7

Dizziness and nausea

Loss of appetite

Black freckles

Diarrhea

Weight loss or poor weight gain

Vomiting

Fatigue and muscle weakness

Intense craving for salt

Bluish-black discolorations around the mouth, nipples, scrotum, vagina or rectum

Rapid pulse

Dark skin (this usually shows up first on the hands and face)

Low tolerance to cold

Dehydration

Sweating

Chronic dehydration

If your child experiences any of these symptoms, it’s best to consult a physician immediately in order to pinpoint if Addison’s disease is the primary cause. Aside from doing a complete physical examination and investigating your child’s (and even your family’s) medical history, there are diagnostic procedures that will be performed. These include blood tests to check the levels of corticosteroid, sodium and potassium in the body.8

Take note that if this condition is not addressed, it may lead to more severe symptoms, like extreme fatigue, abdominal pain, shock, kidney failure and low blood pressure — also known as addisonian or adrenal crisis.

Children With Addison’s Disease Need All the Support They Can Get

Unfortunately, there is no cure for Addison’s disease in children — it is a lifelong illness that requires close monitoring and maintenance treatment. Children who have this illness must also be closely monitored during periods of extreme stress. Infections and injury must always be avoided to prevent the condition from worsening.

Remember that your child needs the guidance of the people around them in order to cope with this condition. Work closely with your physician to learn how you can provide support to your child, and what you can do to help ease their symptoms. It’s also wise to let your child wear a medical alert necklace or bracelet, so others will be aware about their condition.9

MORE ABOUT ADDISON'S DISEASE

Addison's Disease: Introduction

What Is Addison's Disease?

Addison's Disease Symptoms

Addison's Disease Causes

Addison's Disease in Children

Addison's Disease Test

Addison's Disease Treatment

Addison's Disease Prevention

Addison's Disease Diet

Addison's Disease FAQ



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