Read about addison's disease medical facts: what is the definition of addison's disease, what are the signs and symptoms, medical treatment & how to treat addison's disease, information about the causes, and related addison's disease diseases.

Definition: What is "Addison's Disease"?


Addison's disease definition: Addison's disease (also known as chronic adrenal insufficiency, hypocortisolism or hypocorticism) is a rare endocrine disorder in which the adrenal gland produces inadequet amounts of steroid hormones (glucocorticoids & often mineralocorticoids). It may arise in children as well as adults & may occur as the result of a large number of underlying causes. The condition is named after Dr Thomas Addison, the British physician who initially described the condition in his 1855 On the Constitutional & Local Effects of Disease of the Suprarenal Capsules. The adjective "Addisonian" is used for features of the condition, as well as individuals with Addison's disease. The condition is typically diagnosed with blood tests, medical imaging & additional investigations. Treatment is with replacement of the certain hormones (oral hydrocortisone & fludrocortisone). If the disease is the result of an underlying problem, this is addressed. Regular follow-up & monitoring for other health problems is required.

Symptoms & Signs

The symptoms of Addison's disease arise insidiously & it may take some time to be recognized. The most common symptoms are muscle weakness, fatigue, weight loss, vomiting, , headache, diarrhea, sweating, changes in mood & personality & joint & muscle pains. Some have characteristic cravings for salt or salty foods due to the urinary losses of sodium. Other symptoms include low blood pressure that falls further when standing (orthostatic hypotension), darkening (hyperpigmentation) of the skin, including areas that are not exposed to the sun; characteristic sites are skin creases (e.g. of the hands), nipples & the inside of the cheek (buccal mucosa), also old scars may darken & goiter & vitiligo, signs of the condition that often occur together with Addison's.

Treatment: How to Treat "Addison's Disease"?

Treatment for Addison's disease involves replacing the missing cortisol (usually in the form of hydrocortisone tablets) in a dosing regimen that imitates the physiological concentrations of cortisol. Treatment must typically be continued for life. In addition, many patients need fludrocortisone as replacement for the missing aldosterone. Caution must be exercised when the person with Addison's disease becomes sick, has surgery or becomes pregnant. Medication may be require to be increased during times of stress, infection, or injury.


Causes of adrenal insufficiency can be grouped by the way in which they cause the adrenals to give out insufficient cortisol. These are adrenal dysgenesis (the gland has not formed adequately during development), adrenal destruction (disease processes leading to the gland being damaged), or impaired steroidogenesis (the gland is present but is biochemically unable to produce cortisol).

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