How Her Addison’s Diagnosis Saved Her Life

I have been told that one of my first words spoken was “Why?” Ever inquisitive, I have always had a fascination with the how and why. As a child I would, much to my parents dismay, take things apart to put them together.

My interest in how things worked and why they didn’t only grew through my years of schooling. As a nurse, thorough assessment and documentation of patients symptoms and status was my passion. An instructor once told me to use all five senses and take no compliant lightly.

Like pieces to a puzzle each piece of data would be utilized to create a picture of diagnosis.

This dedication to a complete head-to-toe assessment unfortunately is not shared by all of those in the medical community. In even more irritating instances, an assessment will be provided or brought to someone’s attention and ignored. This can be a very frustrating place for a nurse to find herself. I can only imagine how this frustration would feel if I were the patient.

In the internet article Mis-Diagnosing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Addison’s Disease, a patient describes a frustrating (and what I can only imagine terrifying) struggle to get a proper diagnosis for her life altering symptoms.

Through many visits to general practitioners she was frequently dismissed… even though the things she was feeling and her body was going through altered her daily living even threatening her marriage and job.

Given diagnoses such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and “Brain Fatigue,” the patient felt dismissed and fearful of the symptoms that seemed to only progress to life threatening levels. Through perseverance, eventually she was given an appropriate diagnosis of Addison’s Disease.

Addison’s disease is a chronic, long-term endocrine disorder. With this disease, the adrenal gland fails to produce necessary steroid hormones such as aldosterone and cortisol. The symptoms include:

  • weight loss
  • low blood pressure
  • dizziness
  • extreme fatigue
  • sweating
  • headache
  • anxiety

This disease can also alter a person’s personality and mood. Other signs are darkening of the skin, especially in scars, as well as joint and muscle pain. Untreated, this disease can lead to Addisonian Crisis. The side effects of this crisis can be fatal. The symptoms of a crisis are:

  • low blood sugar and blood pressure
  • sudden pain in legs, abdomen and back
  • loss of consciousness
  • psychosis
  • convulsion
  • other bodily changes

Without medical attention, an Addisonian Crisis can be fatal.

With this diagnosis finally made, this patient can now treat her disease and take the steps to prevent her unnecessary death. I felt her frustration throughout reading her article and I applaud and support her call to arms for the medical community to wake up and listen to their patients.


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