Addison’s disease is a type of adrenal insufficiency that occurs when the adrenal glands produce insufficient amounts of certain hormones, such as too little cortisol. This can cause fatigue, weight loss and decreased appetite, darkening of the skin, low blood pressure, salt craving, low blood sugar, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle or joint pain, depression, irritability and body hair loss. These symptoms often develop slowly over time, but occasionally the symptoms may appear suddenly and be very severe. Approximately one in 100,000 people in the United States have Addison’s disease.
Treatment involves taking hormones to make up for the inadequate amount being produced by the adrenal glands. The dosage and type of drug depends on the individual and the amount of each hormone produced by an individual. Treatment often involves injections of steroids and keeping medication on hand at all times in case of an emergency. It is also recommended that people with Addison’s carry identification or medical information (stating the details of their condition) with them at all times. Addison’s disease can be life-threatening without proper management and treatment.
Addison’s disease has physical symptoms as well as behavioral and mood changes. It is a lifelong illness that requires continual treatment and care. However, with proper treatment, it is possible for people with Addison’s to live a fulfilling life and go about their usual daily activities.
There are several resources available to provide information and support to people living with Addison’s disease or other types of adrenal insufficiencies.