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Addison Disease

(Addison's Disease; Adrenal Insufficiency)


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Reviewed/Revised Sep 2022
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Glands make and release hormones.

Hormones are chemicals that stimulate other cells or tissues into action. Because hormones are in your blood, they travel throughout your body. They can affect many organs at the same time.

You have two adrenal glands, one above each kidney. The adrenal glands Overview of the Adrenal Glands Glands make and release hormones. Hormones are chemicals that stimulate other cells or tissues into action. Because hormones are in your blood, they travel throughout your body. They can affect... read more release several different hormones that help control your blood pressure, heart rate, balance of water and salt, response to stress, and some male-type sex features.

What is Addison disease?

What causes Addison disease?

Addison disease is usually due to a problem with your adrenal glands, including:

What are the symptoms of Addison disease?

Symptoms of Addison disease start slowly and usually include:

  • Feeling weak and tired

  • Feeling dizzy when you stand up

  • Loss of appetite

  • Feeling sick to your stomach or throwing up

  • Diarrhea

Sometimes you also have:

  • Darkening of your skin

  • Black freckles on your face and shoulders

  • Dark blue spots inside your mouth, rectum, or vagina

What's an adrenal crisis?

An adrenal crisis is a life-threatening, sudden worsening of Addison disease. It's a medical emergency.

Your body needs adrenal hormones to respond to stresses like a serious injury or illness. Without enough adrenal hormones, injury or illness puts stress on your body and can cause an adrenal crisis. You could have:

How do doctors tell if I have Addison disease?

Doctors will do blood tests to measure:

  • Sodium and potassium levels

  • Adrenal and pituitary hormone levels

Sometimes doctors inject you with pituitary hormones to see if your adrenal glands can respond to them.

How do doctors treat Addison disease?

Doctors will prescribe:

  • Two types of adrenal hormones

You'll need to take extra adrenal hormones if you get sick.

If you have adrenal crisis you will need:

  • IV fluids (directly into your vein)

  • High IV doses of adrenal hormones

Doctors will suggest that you keep these with you at all times:

  • A card or bracelet that says you have Addison disease and lists your medicines

  • A shot of hydrocortisone for sudden stressful situations

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
A-Hydrocort, Ala-Cort, Ala-Scalp, Alkindi, Anucort-HC, Anumed-HC, Anusol HC, Aquaphor Children's Itch Relief, Aquaphor Itch Relief, Balneol for Her, Caldecort , Cetacort, Colocort , Cortaid, Cortaid Advanced, Cortaid Intensive Therapy, Cortaid Sensitive Skin, CortAlo, Cortef, Cortenema, Corticaine, Corticool, Cortifoam, Cortizone-10, Cortizone-10 Cooling Relief, Cortizone-10 External Itch Relief, Cortizone-10 Intensive Healing, Cortizone-10 Plus, Cortizone-10 Quick Shot, Cortizone-5 , Dermarest Dricort, Dermarest Eczema, Dermarest Itch Relief, Encort, First - Hydrocortisone, Gly-Cort , GRx HiCort, Hemmorex-HC, Hemorrhoidal-HC, Hemril , Hycort, Hydro Skin, Hydrocortisone in Absorbase, Hydrocortone, Hydroskin , Hydroxym, Hytone, Instacort, Lacticare HC, Locoid, Locoid Lipocream, MiCort-HC , Monistat Complete Care Instant Itch Relief Cream, Neosporin Eczema, NuCort , Nutracort, NuZon, Pandel, Penecort, Preparation H Hydrocortisone, Proctocort, Proctocream-HC, Procto-Kit, Procto-Med HC , Procto-Pak, Proctosert HC , Proctosol-HC, Proctozone-HC, Rectacort HC, Rectasol-HC, Rederm, Sarnol-HC, Scalacort, Scalpicin Anti-Itch, Solu-Cortef, Texacort, Tucks HC, Vagisil Anti-Itch, Walgreens Intensive Healing, Westcort
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