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Telltale Addison’s Disease Symptoms to Watch Out For

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Diabetic person experiencing hypoglycemia

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  • Having insufficient levels of aldosterone, one of the hormones that become affected by Addison’s disease, may also lead to dehydration
  • In addition, stress, such as from an injury or accident or due to another illness, may lead to worsening of the symptoms

What makes Addison's disease hard to diagnose is that its symptoms are similar to those of other health ailments. These indicators usually develop gradually, over a period of several months or even years.1

If You Experience Any of These Signs, You May Have This Ailment

Some of the common symptoms of Addison's disease include:2,3

  • Muscle weakness
  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue (lacking energy and motivation)
  • Frequent urination
  • Lethargy (drowsiness or tiredness that may come abnormally)
  • Moodiness or mild depression and irritability
  • Appetite loss and/or weight loss
  • Craving salty foods
  • Darkening of your skin
  • Low blood sugar

If you have insufficient levels of aldosterone, which is one of the hormones that become affected by Addison's disease, you may also suffer from dehydration. This is because aldosterone is responsible for regulating the salt and water balance in your body.

Once Addison's Disease Progresses, You May Experience More Severe Symptoms

As mentioned, the indicators of this disorder can take months or years to manifest. During this time, the symptoms become more severe as well. Stress, such as from an injury or accident or due to another illness, may lead to worsening of the symptoms.4 Here are some signs of a severe case of Addison's disease:5,6

  • Muscle cramps
  • Low libido, especially in women
  • Chronic exhaustion, which may lead to depression
  • Mouth sores
  • Loss of body hair, especially in women

Another sign of Addison's disease, mentioned earlier, is hyperpigmentation or a brownish discoloration on your skin, lips, gums and mucous membranes inside the cheeks. It also appears in the creases on your palms, on your scars or on your pressure points, such as your elbows, knees or knuckles.7 Hyperpigmentation occurs only in primary adrenal insufficiency and not in secondary adrenal insufficiency.8

As the disease affects hormone production, women with Addison's may also have irregular periods, or they may miss their periods completely.9 In children, one of its most common effects is delayed puberty.10

Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia may also result from Addison's disease,11 leading to cognitive struggles, such as confusion, difficulty concentrating, anxiety and sometimes unconsciousness.12

Don't Let Addison's Disease Progress to Adrenal Crisis

If left untreated, Addison's disease may cause your hormone levels to gradually decrease, progressively worsening your symptoms. This then leads to adrenal failure, or Addisonian crisis.

In 25 percent of Addison's disease patients, this is actually the first time they become aware that they have this illness. Adrenal crisis is marked by the quick and sudden appearance of symptoms such as:13

  • Severe dehydration
  • Sweating and skin that's pale, cold and clammy
  • Dizziness and headache
  • Rapid shallow breathing
  • Intense muscle weakness
  • Severe diarrhea and vomiting
  • Severe drowsiness
  • Loss of consciousness

Take note that adrenal crisis is a medical emergency — it should not be left untreated, or it may become fatal. This condition can cause insufficient oxygen from reaching your brain, leading to permanent disability, or it may lead to coma or death.14 Call your physician if you're experiencing any of the symptoms above.

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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