Who it affects
Addison`s disease is a rare disorder affecting 1 in every 100,000 people. It may be due to antibody destruction of cells in the adrenal gland, surgical removal of the adrenal glands, infections or inherited conditions.
What gland is involved
The adrenal glands are affected in this disorder. There are 2 adrenal glands. They are small star shaped glands that lie above each kidney.
Patients with Addison`s disease may experience symptoms such as tiredness, weight loss, lethargy and skin discoloration.
This disorder is diagnosed using blood tests. Tests involving the administration of a drug followed by a series of blood tests (short synacthen test) is usually required. Other tests that patients may undergo include other blood tests (e.g. ACTH, adrenal anti-bodies) and a CT or MRI scan of the adrenal glands.
Treatment is with steroid replacement. This is usually in the form of hydrocortisone in split doses. It is important that the first doses of the day is taken first thing each morning and the evening dose around 6pm and not less than 4hrs before sleeping. Addison`s disease also requires treatment with Fludrocortisone. In addition to an assessment of symptoms, blood and urine tests may be used to adjust doses of replacement hormones.
Addison`s disease is a life long disorder requiring long-term replacement therapy. The prognosis is good. It is important that patients carry a steroid card and increase their steroid replacement temporarily around times of serious illness.