Addison's disease occurs from the gradual and progressive destruction of the adrenal glands. These glands are located over the kidneys and are responsible for the secretion of essential hormones. These hormones help maintain blood pressure, they allow the appropriate physiological response to physical stress, they help maintain body fluid balance and are involved in sugar and protein metabolism. Symptoms develop slowly and occur in all age groups. Addison's is a rare disease occurring equally in men and women.
Causes of Addison's Disease
The cause of Addison's disease is unknown but may be a consequence of autoimmune disease, tuberculosis, cancer, pituitary disease, aids or the use of oral cortisone drugs. When artificial cortisone is used, whether by mouth or injected, it leads to suppression of the adrenal glands. Withdrawal of the cortisone does not always produce return of normal adrenal function. Sometimes these medications need to be continued indefinitely.
Signs and Symptoms of Addison's Disease
Symptoms are varied and often non-specific. They may include weakness and fatigue as well as gastrointestinal ailments such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, appetite and weight loss. Other symptoms include fainting and dizziness which is caused by low blood pressure. Darkening of skin, freckles, scars and nipples is frequently seen. There may be varying degrees of hair loss. Intolerance to the cold develops. Mood and behavior changes are frequently seen, often manifested by aggression and depression.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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