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Addison Disease

AMBULATORY CARE:

What you need to know about Addison disease:

Addison disease is a condition that causes low levels of aldosterone and cortisol. These hormones are made by your adrenal glands. Cortisol helps your body handle stress. Aldosterone helps your body balance salt, potassium, and fluid.

Signs and symptoms

may show up slowly over months or years. You may have any of the following:

  • Dizziness, weakness, and tiredness
  • Decreased appetite or weight loss
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Muscle, joint, stomach, or back pain
  • A craving for salty foods
  • An increased sensitivity to cold temperatures or sweating more than usual
  • Darkening of the skin on your lips, palms, nipples, genital area, and inside your mouth
  • Depression or trouble thinking clearly
  • In women, loss of body hair, not having a monthly period, or less interest in sex

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone call if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You lose consciousness or cannot be woken.
  • You have shortness of breath or trouble breathing.

Seek care immediately if

you have any of the following early signs or symptoms of an adrenal crisis:

  • Your heart is beating faster than usual.
  • You have a headache, hallucinations, or feel confused.
  • You have muscle weakness or muscle cramps.
  • You have severe pain in your stomach, back, or legs.
  • You have numbness and tingling in your fingers or around your mouth.
  • You have trouble staying awake.
  • You urinate less than usual or stop urinating.

Call your doctor or endocrinologist if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have symptoms of a cold or the flu such as a cough or congestion.
  • You have 2 or more episodes of diarrhea.
  • You have nausea or stomach pain, or are vomiting.
  • You are vomiting so much that you cannot drink any liquids.
  • You sweat more than usual.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for Addison disease

may include any of the following medicines:

  • Steroid medicine is given to increase your cortisol level. Take this medicine as directed. Steroid medicine helps your body handle stress and prevent an adrenal crisis. Steroid medicine will also help decrease your symptoms such as weakness and fatigue. Always carry extra steroid medicine with you. You may need to take steroid medicine several many times a day. Do not skip a dose of your medicine. Do not stop taking this medicine without talking to your healthcare provider. You may have an adrenal crisis if you skip a dose or stop taking your medicine.
  • Aldosterone supplements may be given to help your body balance salt and fluid. This can help prevent dehydration and low sodium (salt) levels.
  • Sodium supplements help increase the amount of salt in your blood. You may need to take salt supplements every day. Instead you may need to take salt supplements before exercise, in hot weather, or when you have diarrhea or are vomiting.

What you need to know about an adrenal crisis:

An adrenal crisis happens when your cortisol and aldosterone levels suddenly drop. This may lead to low blood pressure, dehydration, and low blood sugar. An adrenal crisis is life-threatening and needs immediate treatment in a hospital. You will be given steroids and glucose (sugar). You may be given sodium (salt) and medicine to increase your blood pressure. You may also need IV fluids to treat dehydration. An adrenal crisis can happen if you suddenly stop taking your medicine. It can also happen when your body is under more stress than usual. This may happen during surgery, an illness, or trauma.

Manage your condition during sick days:

Sick days may include days you have a cold, diarrhea, or are vomiting. Your body will need more steroid medicine when you are sick to prevent an adrenal crisis. Increase your steroid dose as directed when you are sick. You may need to inject your steroid medicine if you are vomiting and cannot swallow your medicine. Your healthcare provider will show you how to inject your medicine. Ask if you need to drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS) when you are sick. An ORS has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar that you need to replace lost body fluids.

Check your blood pressure and blood sugar levels as directed:

Write down your blood pressure readings and blood sugar levels. Bring these numbers with you to your follow-up appointments. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on how to check your blood pressure and blood sugar level.

Wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says you have Addison disease:

Ask your healthcare provider where to get these items.

Medical Alert Jewelry

Ask about vaccines:

Vaccines can help prevent illnesses that may cause an adrenal crisis. Ask your healthcare provider if you should get a flu or pneumonia vaccine, and when to get the vaccine.

Follow up with your doctor or endocrinologist as directed:

You will need ongoing blood tests to check your hormone levels. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Addison Disease (Ambulatory Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.