Addison Disease in Simpler Terms

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There are a wide range of diseases out there, and knowing all you can about them is the only way you can be prepared. With a disorder like Addison Disease, there are special complications that make the disease truly difficult and painful to deal with. Knowing about a disease like this can make diagnosis and coping easier, and can even help to broaden knowledge about specific treatments.

What is Addison’s Disease?

For starters, Addison’s disease affects the adrenal gland and its production of hormones. Anyone, any age, any gender can be affected by this disease and it does have the potential to be deadly. Addison disease does not require any type of previous damage or trauma, making it a truly silent disease when it chooses to strike out against those it affects. Because this is a disease that has no real precursors, it can go undetected for a time before it actually becomes fatal and starts to affect the patient’s body.

There is little known about what causes this disease, and until lately there was little known about what the factors in it taking place are. The adrenal gland is responsible for much of the hormones in our bodies. When it does not produce the right amounts and types of hormone, it can throw off the function of the entire body which can have deadly consequences. Hormones are responsible for several bodily functions, and when they are not in proper balance, they do have the potential to cause serious damage to the rest of the body.

Addison Disease Symptoms

Your Addison’s disease symptoms may vary. For starters, one of the very first symptoms is muscle weakness or fatigue. Another sign is weight loss, low blood pressure and even perhaps fainting spells, nausea, vomiting, muscle or joint pain, diarrhea, irritability, depression, loss of body hair, darkening of the skin, and even sexual dysfunction in women. These symptoms generally develop over a longer period of time,, randing from a month or two to even a year or so. These are not symptoms that come over night, which is again another reason why Addison disease is so deadly and terrifying to most people.

There are some other symptoms that you may want to watch out for. For example, acute adrenal gland failure is also a sign of Addison disease and is often called “Addison crisis”. Some common signs of Addison crisis include pain in the lower back, legs, or abdomen, severe vomiting and diarrhea that leads to dehydration, loss of consciousness, high potassium, and even low blood pressure. These are often symptoms that come on suddenly and in groups. If someone is in Addison crisis mode, you should get them to the hospital immediately to start treatment before permanent damage occurs.

When Should You See a Doctor?

In most cases people do not tend to worry about a symptom here or there. This ends up in experiencing more symptoms all at once, which always causes alarm. For those who feel they may be suffering from Addison’s disease or those that have already been diagnosed, it is important to see a doctor before it is too late. If you are experiencing hyperpigmentation or darkening of the skin, severe or chronic fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, weight loss that is not intended, salt cravings, muscle and joint pain, or dizziness, you should see a doctor immediately.

In most cases, these symptoms will not pop up all at once but will rather persist for several days and will worsen in some cases as the day goes on. In many instances, it could continue to get worse if not treated. This could directly lead to Addison crisis, which could be fatal. Though Addison disease may seem like a death warrant, there are treatment options that can help you manage the disorder and live a normal, healthy life.

What Causes Addison Disease?

There are multiple theories that attempt to pinpoint what causes Addison disease. However, most studies concur that it results from adrenal gland damage. This damage could even go unnoticed and undocumented. Because the adrenal gland is located just above the kidneys, it is not all that well insulated or protected, which makes it susceptible to damage.

That being said, damage to any part of the adrenal gland can cause an insufficiency in the hormones that are needed for your body to function properly. Two of the hormones that are produced in the adrenal gland include glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids, which are essential for our survival. These are essential for the balance of potassium in the blood, and for the body’s ability to convert food into energy. Without either, we are doomed.

Though damage is the first and foremost avenue that doctors inspect when trying to diagnose the cause of Addison disease, things like tuberculosis, infection of the adrenal gland, cancer in the adrenal gland, and bleeding in the adrenal glands can also cause the disease and can cause it to malfunction. An issue or damage in the pituitary, or growth gland, can also lead to adrenal disease. Addison’s disease can also be triggered by stress, pain, infection, or prolonged illness.

Addison Disease Treatment

There are a few different ways that your doctor may go about treating Addison disease and each is going to benefit you greatly. The first and most effective course of action is of course replacement hormones to compensate for your the body’s hormone production. Generally, the delivery method of these hormones differs according to several factors like effectiveness, age, and insurance plans.

Another method is oral corticosteroids. These can be used to replace the cortisol that is produced by the adrenal gland in your body. This form of therapy that does not cause any pain or discomfort, and it helps you to recover and maintain your level of health over time. However, this method is not likely to be used to help bring someone out of Addison crisis.

The next delivery method is corticosteroid injections. These are best for those that are vomiting or that cannot take or retain pills for some reason or other. They are likely to give immediate results in case of more severe cases.

The last is androgen replacement therapy. This is a method by which the doctor can directly treat the androgen deficiency in women. This method requires the prescription of a steroid that replaces androgen in the body to help balance out the insufficiency. This method does not only help treat Addison disease, but can also improve libido and sexual satisfaction.

For those that are already in Addison crisis, there are different methods of treatment. This includes saline injections, hydrocortisone, and sugar injections. All of these work together to help the patient feel better quickly so that they can get back on their feet and avoid remaining in crisis mode.

If at any time you suspect that you or someone you know may have Addison’s disease, it is crucial that a doctor is immediately consulted. An untreated condition can lead to permanent damage that can make it nearly impossible to function. With a few simple blood tests and screenings, your doctor can tell you if you have the disease, and which treatment option is best. Addison disease does not have to ruin your life if you take the time to attack it early.

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