Addison's Disease

Also known as: adrenal insufficiency.

What is Addison’s disease?

The adrenal glands produce steroid hormones (glucocorticoids-cortisol, and mineralocorticoids-aldosterone) that regulate many bodily functions, including the ability to respond to stress. When the adrenal glands produce insufficient amounts of these hormones, the disorder is known as Addison’s disease.

What causes Addison’s disease? 

Primary Addison’s disease most frequently results from damage to the adrenal glands by an autoimmune disease. Other causes include infections (like tuberculosis), adrenal hemorrhage, a genetic abnormality (rare), cancer, the long term use of steroids as a treatment for another condition (iatrogenic disease), some medications and by other diseases affecting either the adrenal glands or the function of the pituitary gland (Secondary or Central adrenal insufficiency).

What are the symptoms of Addison’s disease? 

Mild symptoms may only be seen when the child is physically stressed. Common symptoms of Addison’s disease include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, dehydration, decreased appetite, rapid pulse and a low blood pressure, salt craving, darkening of the skin particularly the hands and face, black freckles, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and intolerance to cold.

What are Addison’s disease care options? 

Treatment includes replacement of the essential deficient hormones (orally or intravenously) such as hydrocortisone and aldosterone (a hormone that helps restore stadium and potassium levels) and managing symptoms. 

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 3/23/2018 2:19:46 PM

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Dr. Kelly Seiler is employed by Pediatric Specialists of America (PSA), the physician-led multi-specialty group practice of Miami Children's Health System. She is a pediatric endocrinologist within the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology at Nicklaus Children's Hospital and sees patients at the Nicklaus Children's Dan Marino Outpatient Center in Weston, FL.

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