Hypoadrenalism (Addison’s disease) is a rare disease that affects the hormones in the body. Individuals with hypoadrenalism have adrenal glands that do not produce enough cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that has many jobs in the body. It helps the body respond to stress, maintain blood pressure, break down carbohydrates and proteins, and manage the immune system. There are two kinds of hypoadrenalism, primary adrenal insufficiency and secondary adrenal insufficiency. Primary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the adrenal glands themselves are failing to produce enough cortisol. Secondary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the pituitary gland cannot produce enough ACTH. ACTH is adrenocorticotropic hormone. ACTH levels affect how much cortisol is released by the adrenal gland. When ACTH levels are low, cortisol levels are also low.
Symptoms of hypoadrenalism occur over time. Fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, and weigh loss are very common. Symptoms are not always noticeable. If the adrenals shut down completely, addisonian crisis will occur. Addisonian crises can be fatal. The disease can be treated by taking cortisol hormone supplements. This medication is prescribed by a doctor. Always speak with your doctor about the best personal plan of action. Support groups like the National Adrenal Disease Foundation can help individuals lead fuller lives.
Description Last Updated: May 12, 2018