UK Patients with Addison’s Disease Will be Given Steroid Emergency Card

Over the last 2 years, the UK has seen 4 deaths and 320 safety incidents related to missing steroid usage, a story from The Independent explains. For patients with Addison’s disease, or adrenal insufficiency, their bodies don’t make enough hormones. Specifically, patients are missing cortisol and aldosterone. Oral or injected corticosteroids, or orally-administered fludrocortisone, can replace these. This is extremely important, given the health crises and potential fatalities which can occur if steroids are not administered.

In addition to the 8,000 U.K. patients with Addison’s disease, another 60,000 patients have other rare disorders requiring steroid treatment. Yet if a hospitalized patient isn’t administered with these therapies, the outcome can be poor.  In one case, a patient went to the hospital following a broken leg. His steroid use stemmed from a brain tumor nearly 40 years prior. However, after receiving no steroids for two days, he died.

As a result, patients in the U.K. will receive new steroid emergency cards to explain their condition to doctors if admitted to the hospital. These cards will become available at the start of September through general practitioners, hospitals, or other community organizations. In addition to explaining the need for steroids, the cards will also highlight how to handle an adrenal emergency. All eligible patients should receive cards by next May.

Addison’s Disease

Also known as primary adrenal insufficiency, Addison’s disease is characterized by low hormone production. The adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol or aldosterone, known as steroid hormones. While cortisol helps raise blood sugar, control water levels, regulate inflammation, and manage nutrients, aldosterone regulates salt and water levels. Up to 150/1million people have Addison’s disease.

Generally, it develops following adrenal damage. Causes include an autoimmune disease or autoimmune reaction, cancer, cytomegalovirus infection, adrenal removal, or chronic infections. Symptoms include:

  • Darkened skin
  • Salt cravings
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Appetite loss
  • Low blood sugar
  • Fainting and low blood pressure
  • Severe fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Muscle and abdominal pain
  • Changes in mood, such as depression or irritability
  • Dehydration
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Changes or complete stop in menstruation

Learn more about Addison’s disease here.

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn

Jessica Lynn has an educational background in writing and marketing. She firmly believes in the power of writing in amplifying voices, and looks forward to doing so for the rare disease community.

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