Adrenal insufficiency is a rare condition. It occurs when the adrenal glands located on top of the kidneys are damaged or destroyed. It can also occur when the hormones which control the adrenal glands, produced in the pituitary gland and hypothalamic portion of the brain, are inadequate. Inadequate supply of corticosteroids from the adrenal glands can produce many medical problems.
These include problems dealing with infections or physiological stresses such as surgery and shock. In extreme cases, severe weakness can develop along with shock or death.
Adrenal insufficiency can occur at any age, and may affect either women or men. Since the development of synthetic corticosteroids, it had been successfully treated with supplemental daily medications.
Causes of Adrenal Insufficiency
Addison's disease occurs from the destruction of the adrenal glands. Often, there is no explanation although it is thought that an autoimmune process, where the adrenal glands are destroyed by other cells, may kick--start the disease. Occasionally, Addison's disease occurs as a complication of tuberculosis, histoplasmosis, or cytomegalovirus. Adrenal tissue can also be destroyed by metastatic cancer, amyloidosis, and sarcoidosis.
Secondary adrenal failure occurs because of damage to the pituitary gland. This can be the result of a tumor in that location or the surgical or radiological destruction of that gland.
Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Insufficiency
Weakness, decreased appetite, and ensuing weight loss are the more prominent symptoms of adrenal insufficiency. Nausea and vomiting commonly occur as does abdominal pain. Diarrhea or constipation may occur. Increased pigmentation of the skin occurs when the problem arises from damage to the adrenal gland..
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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