Addison’s disease occurs when the body fails to produce enough cortisol or aldosterone. It is named after Thomas Addison, the British physician who first described the condition. It can affect people of all ages and all groups and can be fatal if not treated properly. The disease develops gradually, and it is sometimes hard to diagnose. By the time a person learns they have Addison’s disease, it may already be established. It can sometimes be confused with other conditions and attributed to other health problems, as well.
There are three main causes of Addison’s disease:
The symptoms of Addison’s disease can come on gradually and mimic many other illnesses and diseases. Many patients do not notice the symptoms until they become severe or after they have become chronic. Symptoms include:
Some people do not seek medical attention until they experience an “Addisonian crisis.” This happens when there is a severe adrenal insufficiency. It is considered a medical emergency, and failure to seek treatment could result in death. At this point, the body could start to shut down and other organs may be affected. The symptoms for an Addisonian crisis are different and more severe than symptoms of the disease at mild stages. They include:
Doctors can diagnose Addison’s disease several different ways.
Addison’s disease can be treated with hormone replacement therapy and dietary changes.
When treated, the outlook is typically good for Addison’s disease sufferers. A person who has been diagnosed with the disease should always be aware of their symptoms and watch for an Addisonian crisis, which can be deadly. They also need to be careful about certain activities that can put a strain on the body.
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