Addison’s disease is a rare hormonal disorder which is caused when the adrenal glands do not make enough hormones. The adrenal glands produce several hormones including cortisol and aldosterone. These hormones have hundreds of functions in the body. The most important is to respond to stress. They also help control blood pressure and heart function, control the immune system, balance the effects of insulin and glucose regulation, and regulate metabolism of protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Addison’s disease can be caused by autoimmune disorders, tuberculosis infection (TB), chronic fungal infections, cancer, surgical removal of adrenal glands, long term use of steroids, and pituitary gland disorders. Symptoms can be vague and difficult to diagnose; fatigue, muscle weakness, low mood, loss of appetite, weight loss, and increased thirst. It is important to treat Addison’s disease by replacing the missing hormones as without this, there is a risk of having an ‘adrenal crisis’ which is a medical emergency. Low blood pressure, low blood sugar and high levels of potassium in blood can occur which can be fatal if left untreated.