Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Addison's Disease

Frequently Asked Questions About Addison’s Disease

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  • Addison’s disease occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks your adrenal glands (autoimmune disorder) and destroys the adrenal cortex, which is the outer part of the glands. When this happens, the body’s production of cortisol and aldosterone is disrupted
  • Unfortunately, there is no cure for Addison’s disease — it is a lifelong condition that requires constant management of the symptoms

Q: What causes Addison's disease?

A: Addison’s disease occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks your adrenal glands (autoimmune disorder) and destroys the adrenal cortex, which is the outer part of the glands. When this happens, the body’s production of cortisol and aldosterone is disrupted.1,2

These hormones are essential to body functions like regulating metabolism, blood pressure and your body’s response to stress. Thus, having insufficient levels puts your health at risk. Aside from autoimmune disorders, there are other potential risk factors that can trigger Addison’s disease, such as:

Infections

Cancer

Removal of adrenal glands

Hemorrhage in the glands

Chronic steroid use can also cause secondary adrenal insufficiency, a condition that affects your pituitary glands.3

Q: How do you test for Addison’s disease?

A: Aside from reviewing your medical history and doing a physical examination to check for signs of hyperpigmentation — a hallmark symptom seen in many patients — these diagnostic tests may be conducted to confirm if you have Addison's disease:4,5

Blood tests will check your cortisol, potassium and sodium levels.

A synacthen test, which involves injecting a synthetic form of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) into your body, will check your adrenal glands’ capacity to release cortisol.

A thyroid test will check if you have an underactive thyroid gland, which is common among Addison’s disease patients.

An insulin-induced hypoglycemia test will determine if you have a pituitary disease that may be causing secondary adrenal insufficiency.

Some doctors may also request imaging scans to examine the physical appearance of your adrenal glands, and to see if there are any apparent abnormalities.

Q: Is Addison's disease a fatal and/or life-threatening condition?

A: If well-managed, meaning the correct treatment protocols are followed and stress-reducing lifestyle habits are put in place, the outlook for patients with Addison’s disease is pretty much positive, and they can live long, almost normal, lives.

However, if the hormone levels in the body are not corrected, then addisonian crisis may occur — a potentially life-threatening condition that needs immediate treatment.

Q: Is Addison’s disease a genetic disorder?

A: There’s evidence suggesting that there may be a hereditary component to Addison’s disease, and people with certain genes may be more prone to it, especially if you have relatives who suffer from autoimmune disorders. If you have a family member who has an autoimmune disease like Type 1 diabetes, hypothyroidism or vitiligo, chances are you have an increased risk of Addison’s disease.6

Q: How do you treat Addison's disease?

A: Unfortunately, there is no cure for Addison’s disease — it is a lifelong condition that requires constant management of the symptoms.

Conventional treatments involve use of steroids such as hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone to replenish hormones that cannot be produced by the adrenal glands. Make sure that you’re taking the correct dose for your condition, as too much or too little can do your body harm.

There are also herbal remedies you can try to help alleviate your symptoms, such as green tea, ginseng, turmeric and ashwagandha. Consult your physician to see which ones may be ideal for your condition.

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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