What are the symptoms of Addison’s Disease?
The most common symptom of Addison’s disease is loss of appetite. Loss of appetite usually occurs within two weeks after onset. However, it may occur up to six months after onset. Other symptoms include:
Nausea/vomiting (sometimes blood)
Loss of hair (in some cases)
Darkening of the skin due to poor blood flow (in some cases)
If untreated for any reason, Addison’s disease can be fatal.
Prognosis of Addison’s Disease
The prognosis of Addison’s disease is fairly good. The reason for this is because it is very treatable.
However, if you do not get treatment in a timely manner, you can die. The reason for this is because the disease affects your body’s ability to produce necessary hormones. The main cause of death from Addison’s disease is, ironically, dehydration and sodium depletion.
What causes Addison’s Disease?
The cause of Addison’s disease is a malfunctioning adrenal gland, specifically the cortex of the adrenal gland. The body requires this part of the gland to produce certain hormones, steroids in particular. Addison’s disease is also known as Adrenocortical Insufficiency.
There are a few reasons why the body malfunctions and produces insufficient steroids:
Autoimmune Disorders. The most common cause of Addison’s disease is an autoimmune disorder.
In this case, the body’s defense system (the immune system) attacks the adrenal glands and destroys them.
Tumors. Tumors are also a common cause of Addison’s disease.
Most of the times, a tumor is benign. However, it can sometimes be cancerous as well.
Side effects of medications. Some medications have side effects that cause Addison’s disease.
These types of causes are usually temporary and can be treated.
Stress. For some people, extreme physical or psychological stress causes their body to stop producing steroids.
However, this is not common.
Treatments for Addison’s Disease
It is very important to seek medical treatment for Addison’s disease as soon as possible. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of Addison’s disease, it is crucial to see a medical professional immediately.
Most people get their Addison’s disease under control within two years.
The most common treatment for Addison’s disease is taking a regimen of steroids. However, some people require additional treatments, such as medication or even surgery.
In some cases, treatment for Addison’s disease can be fairly easy. If you have been recently diagnosed with Addison’s disease, it is very crucial to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Treating Addison’s Disease: A Timeline
First off, if you think you might have Addison’s disease, it is recommended to get yourself checked out immediately by a medical professional. It is possible that you could have another form of Adrenocortical Insufficiency, such as an autoimmune disorder or a tumor.
Ideally though, you should seek medical treatment if you experience symptoms of Addison’s disease. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience:
Headaches that won’t go away
Now, let’s talk a little bit about treatment.
First of all, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you’ll probably be admitted to a hospital for at least a couple of days. During this time, your treatment team will try to stabilize your condition.
During this time, you may be given fluids and electrolytes through an IV. You may also be given steroids for the treatment of your disease.
Does this mean you’ll be cured immediately?
Unfortunately, no. However, this is important in the long term treatment of your disease. If your electrolyte levels are too low, you may not survive long enough to be given the proper treatment. However, if your electrolyte levels are in a good state, you’ll likely survive long enough to begin the next process of your treatment.
In some cases, it may require more than just a few days in the hospital. In fact, some people have been admitted to hospitals for a period of two months or more while doctors try to stabilize their condition.
The reason for this is that some cases of Addison’s disease are very severe. For these people, it may take a long time before their bodies are in a proper, stable condition.
Can You Be Treated at Home?
There are some cases of Addison’s disease that can be treated at home, as long as you’re willing to take a few precautions.
First of all, if you have Addison’s disease but your symptoms are under control, you may be able to take medication to manage your condition at home.
For example, some people with Addison’s disease take a small amount of florinef (a substitute for florine) daily to help manage their sodium levels. Other people may take medication to help boost their corticosteroids.
If you do not have your Addison’s disease under control, you will most likely need to be hospitalize.
As for the medication that you’ll be taking, it’s very specific to your own disease and your own symptoms.
This is because Addison’s disease is a complex disease that requires a unique combination of medication to treat properly.
First, you will most likely be given hydrocortisone. This is a type of steroid that helps to manage your sodium and potassium levels.
You may also be given florinef or another substitute for florine. This helps to manage your levels of sodium and potassium.
Potassium can also be replaced through the usage of a product called ECF.
Potassium and sodium levels in the body can also be managed through a process known as dialysis. This involves your blood being manually filtered to remove waste products from your blood.
So, can you prevent this condition?
In some cases, yes. While there are several causes of Addison’s disease listed above, in nearly all cases, it’s caused by the destruction of adrenal tissue.
As we know, the adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones, including the hormones that the adrenal cortex produces.
Why does the destruction of the adrenal cortex cause Addison’s disease?
There are a few reasons. The most common, however, is an autoimmune disease.
What is an autoimmune disease?
An autoimmune disease occurs when your body’s immune system, which is supposed to attack foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses, mistakenly attacks a part of your own body.
In the case of Addison’s disease, your immune system attacks the adrenal cortex. The destruction of this tissue causes the symptoms of Addison’s disease.
So, how can you prevent this?
In most cases, you can’t. However, in some cases of Addison’s disease, there is a known cause that triggered the immune system to attack the body.
For example, in some cases of Addison’s disease, an infection by a particular type of virus called a Coxsackie virus may cause an autoimmune reaction.
In these cases, the infection itself may not even be that serious. In fact, some people never even experience symptoms at all.
However, in some cases the infection may be so mild that a person doesn’t even realize they had an infection in the first place. So it’s very important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the virus.
How can you prevent this?
Immunization. Some of the Coxsackie viruses that have been known to trigger Addison’s disease are Coxsackie B4 and Coxsackie B5.
So, how can a vaccination prevent this?
Simple: immunization causes your body to produce antibodies against the virus.
These antibodies defend your body against the virus and prevent it from attacking your body. So, there’s no way for your immune system to attack your body.
In the case of Addison’s disease, a vaccination against Coxsackie B would prevent the disease from occurring.
However, there is a major problem with this: there is no vaccine against Coxsackie B. In fact, there are no vaccines against any of the known Coxsackie viruses, and there may never be.
This is because the viruses are very uncommon, and the public doesn’t see a need to create a vaccine against them.
So, is there anything that can be done?
Yes. The only way to prevent this disease is through education.
How do you do this?
Simply inform the public about the Coxsackie viruses and their connection with Addison’s disease.
Also, warn people against visiting places with poor sanitation and seeing unhygienic people.
Of course, you should also inform the public about Addison’s disease itself, so that if they think they have the disease they can get treatment as soon as possible.
Thanks for listening.
Back to Addison’s disease.
Sources & references used in this article:
- Adrenal steroids and disease (CL Cope – 1972 – pdfs.semanticscholar.org)
- Metastases to the adrenal glands and the development of Addison’s disease (DJ Seidenwurm, EB Elmer, LM Kaplan, EK Williams… – Cancer, 1984 – Wiley Online Library)
- Addison’s disease–clinical studies. A report of 108 cases (J Nerup – European Journal of Endocrinology, 1974 – eje.bioscientifica.com)
- Gastrointestinal manifestations of Addison’s disease. (MV Tobin, SA Aldridge, AI Morris… – American Journal of …, 1989 – search.ebscohost.com)