Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease is a disorder that results in your body producing insufficient amounts of certain important hormones.

In Addison’s disease, the adrenal glands produce too little cortisol, which is one of the hormones in a group called the glucocorticoids. Sometimes, Addison’s disease also involves insufficient production of aldosterone, one of the hormones called the mineralocorticoids. Addison’s disease can be life-threatening.

The disorder, also called adrenal insufficiency or hypocortisolism, can occur at any age, including infancy, and is equally likely among males and females. It’s rare, affecting only about one in 100,000 people. Treatment involves taking hormones to replace the insufficient amount being made by the adrenal glands.


Conditions that suggest Addison's Disease


Risk factors for Addison's Disease



Lab Values - Chemistries  

Low CO2

Addison's Disease can lead to


Recommendations for Addison's Disease


Conventional Drugs / Information

If you receive an early diagnosis of Addison’s disease, treatment may involve taking prescription corticosteroids. Because your body isn’t producing sufficient steroid hormones, your doctor may have you take one or more hormones to replace the deficiency. Cortisol is replaced using hydrocortisone (Cortef), prednisone (Deltasone) or cortisone. Fludrocortisone (Florinef) replaces aldosterone, which controls your body’s sodium and potassium needs and keeps your blood pressure normal.

You take these hormones orally in daily doses that mimic the amount your body normally would make, thereby minimizing side effects. If you’re facing a stressful situation such as an operation, an infection or a minor illness, your doctor may suggest a temporary increase in your dosages.

Lab Tests/Rule-Outs  

Tests, General Diagnostic

Measuring your blood levels of sodium, potassium, cortisol and ACTH gives your doctor an initial indication of whether adrenal insufficiency may be causing your signs and symptoms. A blood test also can measure antibodies associated with autoimmune Addison’s disease.



Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Highly recommended


Addison's Disease

Characterized by the chronic destruction of the adrenal cortex, which leads to an increased loss of sodium and water in the urine, muscle weakness and low blood pressure. The bronze color of the skin is due to the increased production of the skin pigment, melanin.


Chemical substances secreted by a variety of body organs that are carried by the bloodstream and usually influence cells some distance from the source of production. Hormones signal certain enzymes to perform their functions and, in this way, regulate such body functions as blood sugar levels, insulin levels, the menstrual cycle, and growth. These can be prescription, over-the-counter, synthetic or natural agents. Examples include adrenal hormones such as corticosteroids and aldosterone; glucagon, growth hormone, insulin, testosterone, estrogens, progestins, progesterone, DHEA, melatonin, and thyroid hormones such as thyroxine and calcitonin.


A steroid hormone secreted by the adrenal cortex that regulates the salt and water balance in the body.

Adrenal Insufficiency

Also known as Adrenal Exhaustion or Low Adrenal Function, this is a condition where the adrenal gland is compromised in its production of epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, corticosterone or aldosterone. Symptoms include primarily fatigue, weakness, decreased appetite with ensuing weight loss, as well as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, or increased pigmentation of the skin. Cortical insufficiency (low or no corticosteroids) produces a more serious condition called Addison’s Disease, characterized by extreme weakness, low blood pressure, pigmentation of the skin, shock or even death.

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