What is Addison’s disease?
Addison’s disease is a disorder of the adrenal glands, in which the cortex of both adrenal glands is destroyed. This affects the production of two hormones, cortisol and aldosterone, which help regulate blood pressure.
Addisons disease is commonly an auto immune condition, and can also be caused by diabetes and some forms of anaemia.
How common is Addison’s disease?
Addison’s disease is rare. It is thought that just fewer than 8,500 people have been diagnosed with Addison’s disease.
What are the symptoms of Addison’s disease?
The initial symptoms of Addison’s disease are similar to the symptoms of other health conditions, like depression and flu. Symptoms include fatigue, lethargy, muscle weakness, low mood, loss of appetite, low blood pressure, increased thirst and a craving for salt.
As the disease progresses you may experience low blood pressure when you stand up, fainting, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, abdominal pain, muscle cramps, discolouration of the skin and chronic exhaustion.
If Addison’s disease is left untreated, the levels of cortisol and aldosterone in the body will gradually decrease. This will cause the symptoms to get worse and eventually lead to a situation that is known as an adrenal crisis. Symptoms of an adrenal crisis include severe dehydration, severe hypotension, shock, severe vomiting, extreme sleepiness or coma, and death.
How is Addison’s disease treated?
The underlying causes of Addison’s can usually be treated with antibiotics or medication. Treatment for Addison’s disease usually involves steroid replacement therapy and medication to replace the hormones your body no longer produces.
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