What Is Addison’s Disease and Why You Might Want an Addison’s Test

Most people don’t know that Addison’s disease affects approximately 1 out of 100,000 people in the United States.

Whether a person is looking into understanding a possible cause of their symptoms or they’ve been recently diagnosed with Addison’s disease, education of a serious illness is important. While Addison’s disease is a rare disease, knowing their available options can make a huge difference in the quality of life that a person lives in the future.

Understanding the Addison’s test and what it means if they are diagnosed with Addison’s disease is essential. That’s why today, this complete guide was created to help people get a better understanding of Addison’s disease. Keep reading to learn more! 

What Is Addison’s Disease?

Addison’s disease is also commonly referred to as adrenaline sufficiency. A rare condition, Addison’s disease is when a person’s body doesn’t produce enough of specific hormones.

In individuals that have Addison’s disease, their adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol and aldosterone. The adrenal glands are primarily affected by Addison’s disease. A person can locate the adrenal glands on top of their kidneys.

Their adrenal glands are responsible for producing the hormones that their body needs to function properly. When the cortex in their adrenal glands is damaged, a person may develop Addison’s disease.

Cortisol is the hormone that’s responsible for regulating the reaction a body has to any stressful situation. Aldosterone is responsible for regulating a body’s potassium and sodium levels. The cortex in the adrenal gland is not only responsible for producing these hormones, but it’s also responsible for producing sex hormones

What Are the Symptoms of Addison’s Disease?

The symptoms of Addison’s disease develop slowly over time. Sometimes it takes up to several months for individuals to start noticing the side effects of Addison’s disease. In some situations, patients will ignore the symptoms of Addison’s disease that they’re developing.

The symptoms of Addison’s disease are usually noticed when a person is in a stressful situation. This can be the cause of major life stressors or if the person develops an injury or illness. During this occurrence, the person will usually experience severe symptoms.

Some of the symptoms a person can expect to find if they are suffering from Addison’s disease include the following:

  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Salt craving
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fainting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Hair loss on the body
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomit
  • Low blood sugars
  • Darkening of the skin
  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Irritability
  • Behavioral symptoms
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Decreased heart rate 
  • Sexual dysfunction 

The above-listed symptoms will usually present themselves over an extended period of time. 

Addisonian Crisis

In other situations, when there is an acute adrenal failure, other symptoms will present themselves. Acute adrenal failure, which is also commonly referred to as an Addisonian crisis, will suddenly appear. An individual suffering from acute adrenal failure is at a high risk of developing shock, which could threaten their life.

Addisonian crisis can develop if Addison’s disease is left untreated for too long.

If a person has any of the below-listed symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. The symptoms of acute adrenal failure include:

  • Reduced consciousness
  • Delirium
  • Confusion
  • High fever
  • Restlessness 
  • Severe weakness
  • Pain in their legs
  • Auditory hallucinations
  • Visual hallucinations 
  • Pain in their lower back
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe and unbearable abdominal pain
  • Low blood pressure
  • High potassium and low sodium levels

If a person is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s imperative that they seek immediate medical attention. If they wait to long to seek medical attention, their life could be at risk.

What Are the Causes for Addison’s Disease?

There are two known causes of Addison’s disease. These causes are secondary adrenal insufficiency and primary adrenal insufficiency.

For a doctor to properly treat a medical condition, they have to identify which type of adrenal insufficiency is responsible for a person’s health condition.

Primary Adrenal Insufficiency

This type of adrenal insufficiency happens when there is severe enough damage to their adrenal glands. As a result, a person’s adrenal glands are unable to continue producing hormones. The most commonly found reason for primary adrenal insufficiency is when their immune system attacks their adrenal glands. 

Primary adrenal insufficiency is a type of autoimmune disease. Some of the other common causes of primary adrenal insufficiency include:

  • Prolonged use of prednisone
  • Cancer
  • An abnormal growth
  • Infections in a body
  • Certain types of blood thinners 

When a body has primary adrenal insufficiency, there may be other areas of a persons’ body where their immune system is beginning to attack. 

Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency

Secondary adrenal insufficiency happens when the pituitary gland isn’t able to produce enough Adrenocorticotropic hormone. The Adrenocorticotropic hormone is responsible for letting the adrenal glands know when it’s time to release hormones.

Some people will develop secondary adrenal insufficiency if they don’t keep up with the corticosteroid medications that the doctors prescribe. Some people use corticosteroids to control symptoms of chronic health conditions.

Some of the other common causes of secondary adrenal insufficiency include medication, tumors, genetics, or a traumatic brain injury.

Who Is Primarily Affected by Addison’s Disease?

Addison’s disease is considered to be a rare disease. While both men and women are affected equally, it commonly affects people between the ages of 30 and 50. However, people of all age groups can be affected.

Keep in mind that there is a chance that a person may be at higher risk for developing Addison’s disease than other people. They may be at higher risk if they:

  • Have chronic infections
  • Take blood thinners
  • Have had part of their adrenal gland removed
  • Have an autoimmune disease
  • Have cancer

It’s especially crucial if a person has any of the above-listed conditions or have experienced any of the listed symptoms that they make a doctor’s appointment with their primary physician. 

Are There Any Related Disorders to Addison’s Disease? 

The symptoms that people experience from Addison’s disease are very similar to the symptoms that they may experience with other related disorders. A doctor may also run tests to identify or rule out any of the below-listed disorders.

Adrenocorticotropic Hormone Deficiency

Adrenocorticotropic hormone deficiency is another rare disorder. This disorder occurs when there is an absence or decrease in the production of the Adrenocorticotropic hormone.

A decrease in this hormone and the body will cause the secretion of the adrenal hormones to be reduced. This will result in the development of adrenal insufficiency.

Adrenoleukodystrophy 

Adrenoleukodystrophy is a type of a recessive genetic disorder that is caused by an abnormality in a gene on the X chromosome. 

Adrenoleukodystrophy affects the white matter found on the nervous system, as well as the adrenal cortex.

The development of adrenal leukodystrophy can lead to abnormalities found in sexual development, reproduction, heart rate, and blood pressure. As a result, this can cause impairment and neurological ability, leading to abnormalities in mental function.

People who are suffering from Adrenoleukodystrophy often have a reduced lifespan.

What Is the Addison’s Test Process Like?

When someone first notices any of the symptoms that are commonly seen with Addison’s disease, it’s important that they schedule an appointment with the doctor immediately.

At the appointment, a doctor will discuss their medical history. They’ll also go over any symptoms and signs that they’re showing. After the appointment, the doctor will likely schedule a variety of tests.

Some of the tests that a person can expect to undergo include an Adrenocorticotropic stimulation test, blood test, insulin-induced hypoglycemia test, and imaging tests. 

Adrenocorticotropic Stimulation Test

The Adrenocorticotropic simulation test will cause the adrenal glands to attempt to produce cortisol. During this test, medical professionals will measure the cortisol level that is found in the blood before the test begins. They will also measure how much cortisol is found in the blood after receiving an injection of synthetic Adrenocorticotropic.

Blood Test

A blood test will measure the levels of cortisol, sodium, Adrenocorticotropic hormone, and potassium found in the blood. Some medical professionals may also measure to see how many antibodies a person has in their blood. Some antibody markers are commonly associated with primary Addison’s disease.

Insulin-Induced Hypoglycemia Test

This test will be given if the doctors believe that a person has adrenal insufficiency due to secondary adrenal insufficiency. During the insulin-induced hypoglycemia test, a patient will have their blood glucose levels and their cortisol levels checked after they receive an insulin injection.

In people that aren’t suffering from Addison’s disease, their glucose levels will fall, and their cortisol levels will increase after this insulin injection.

Imaging Tests

Some doctors may also test a person for the computerized tomography scan of their abdomen. This will get a scan of the size of the adrenal glands. 

Doctors will also look for any other abnormalities found in the abdomen.

Also, some doctors may have someone go under an MRI scan to get a look at the pituitary gland. If the pituitary gland shows any abnormalities, it may indicate that a person has secondary adrenal insufficiency. 

Are There Any Treatment Options for Addison’s Disease?

All of the treatment options available for Addison’s disease involve a medicated regimen. A person suffering from Addison’s disease will likely be put on hormone replacement therapy to manage the level of hormones that their body isn’t producing. 

This means they’ll likely have to be on some type of oral corticosteroids. Some of the most commonly prescribed oral corticosteroids include prednisone, hydrocortisone, methylprednisolone, and Fludrocortisone acetate. 

In addition to an oral medicated regimen, a person will also need to ensure that they’re eating plenty of sodium in a persons’ diet. This is especially important if they have gastrointestinal distress, if the weather is hot, or if they’ve completed a lot of heavy exercises.

Some situations by a doctor may require someone to up their medicated resume if they’re fighting off an infection, suffering from a minor illness, if they have a stressful life event going on, or if they have an upcoming operation. If in the chance that a person is struggling to keep their oral medications down and they’re vomiting, a doctor may find it necessary to provide a person with injections of corticosteroids.

Home Care

On top of the medicated regimen, it’s also essential that a person keep themselves protected when medical help isn’t immediately available. They should always carry an emergency kit around that has the medication they need. A doctor may write a prescription for injectable corticosteroids in the instance of an emergency.

A person should also consider getting a medical alert card or a medical bracelet. This will make other people aware of a person’s condition if there’s ever an emergency that a person cannot communicate with others. 

Understanding How to Manage after an Addison’s Disease Diagnosis 

The treatment for Addison’s disease will be necessary for the rest of a person’s life. Since Addison’s disease is a lifelong condition, it’s important that a person gets an Addison’s test completed as soon as they possibly can.

If someone is diagnosed with Addison’s disease, medicated treatment and stress relieving techniques can help them to manage the symptoms of liver disease. They should also be careful to properly follow the treatment plan that a doctor creates for them.

Always be certain to take medications exactly as directed by a doctor. Not consistently keeping up with a medicated regimen plan can harm a person’s medical condition. This is also why it’s important for a person to consistently see their doctor, who will help them monitor their overall health and their disease condition.

Looking for testing for Addison’s disease? At Umbrella Scientific, they have a large range of DNS testing services available. 

Whether someone is interested in disease association testing, drug sensitivity testing, or a customized diet plan based on their DNA results, Umbrella Scientific is here to help. Check out their blog for more information! 

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