What is it Like Living with Addison’s Disease?

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Living with Addison’s disease can be a challenge.

Addison’s disease, also known as adrenal insufficiency or hypocortisolism, is a rare disorder of the endocrine system and affects approximately 1 out of 100,000 people. It is most commonly caused by an autoimmune reaction where one’s own immune system attacks the outermost layer or cortex of the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys.

The adrenal cortex makes two important hormones: cortisol and aldosterone. Although cortisol often gets a bad rap, it is essential to life and normal metabolic functioning.

What are the Symptoms of Addison’s Disease?

Cortisol helps your body respond to stress, but also helps regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, and the immune system – just to name a few.

Aldosterone helps regulate blood levels of sodium and potassium and keep them in balance. This balance is important because it affects your overall blood volume and therefore your blood pressure.

The most common symptoms of Addison’s disease include:

  • chronic, worsening fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • weight loss
  • muscle weakness
  • irritability
  • depression
  • dehydration
  • low blood pressure
  • salt cravings
  • hyperpigmentation (darkening of skin)
  • cold sensitivity

Managing Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease is usually treated with oral replacement of cortisol and aldosterone. People living with Addison’s disease will need to take these medications for the rest of their lives and should be closely followed by their health care provider, usually an endocrinologist. They can live normal, healthy lives with proper treatment.

However, times of extreme stress can cause an Addisonian Crisis. Addisonian Crisis is an acute episode of adrenal insufficiency and requires immediate medical attention.

Living with Addison’s disease can be challenging. The chronic fatigue can make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning or make it through the day. For more information regarding living with Addison’s disease, you can follow Suzanna on her blog “Simply Suzanna.” Click here to see her posts about living with Addison’s disease.


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