Addison’s Disease: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment


Addison’s disease, also called adrenal insufficiency, is a very rare disease that occurs when the body cannot produce enough of certain hormones. In Addison’s disease, which is seen in one of every 100,000 people, glucocorticoid (cortisol) and mineralocorticoid (aldosterone) hormones decrease in the blood due to the secretory insufficiency of the adrenal glands located just above the kidneys.

How can I find out if I have Addison’s disease?

If you have symptoms of Addison’s disease, you should seek medical attention right away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Headache or a rash
  • Swelling or bruising in any part of your body
  • Chills
  • A swollen, tender neck
  • Fever that lasts for 3-7 days
  • Nausea or vomiting

If you have symptoms of chronic kidney disease or have had a kidney transplant, or have developed kidney problems, ask your doctor about the risk of developing Addison’s disease. Your doctor can help you determine whether you have the illness and how long it will last.

Addison’s Disease Causes and Treatment

There are many treatments that help fight Addison’s disease, including medications and supplements. Learn more about the medications and supplements you can take.

Causes: The most common cause is kidney disease, which is usually a result of an infection. However, it also can occur in people without kidney problems. Kidney disease is an autoimmune disease, meaning it’s caused by an injury to your own body that disrupts the normal body systems. It can cause a variety of symptoms, including severe dehydration, vomiting, fever and low blood sugar. It’s important to know that the cause of Addison’s disease is not a “catch-all” of different conditions that cause the symptoms of Addison’s disease.

Signs: People with Addison’s disease tend to have different signs and symptoms. If you have some of these signs, make an appointment with your doctor to see what’s wrong. It could help to see if any of these signs or symptoms are common among the people you know.

Symptoms of chronic kidney disease include:

  • Headache or a rash
  • Swollen ankles or feet
  • Proteinuria (very low urine production) in the form of high protein foods, including dairy
  • Blood sugar changes, like decreased levels of sugar in the blood
  • Chills and fever that last more than 5 days
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Muscle pain, stiffness and fatigue
  • Dry mouth or mouth ulcers
  • Dilated pupils (darkening of the eyes)
  • A condition called sepsis (infection of the blood vessels or digestive system)
  • Seizures (convulsions)

If you or someone you know has chronic kidney disease and you’ve developed symptoms of Addison‘s disease, seek medical attention right away. If you or someone you know has the following symptoms, talk to your doctor:

  • Fever that lasts for three weeks or more
  • Blood pressure that falls below 160/90 mmHg
  • Chills or high body temperature
  • Headache or a rash
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • High body temperature
  • Muscle pain, stiffness or fatigue
  • Dry mouth or mouth ulcers

What is the outlook?

After the initial diagnosis, most people with Addison’s disease will receive good medical care to manage their symptoms. However, you’ll probably need to start taking medications and supplements to help with chronic kidney disease and prevent and treat any symptoms. After a kidney transplant, it’s possible to develop chronic kidney disease, which can lead to severe complications.

If you have chronic kidney disease, get treatment right away to prevent and treat any complications. You’ll want to make a complete recovery from your condition and take care of yourself. You might need to use anti-nausea medications, diet changes and be monitored closely for more complications. Also, you should use low-sodium vegetables and whole-grain foods, like beans.

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