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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.
  • 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. 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.


Call 911 for the following:

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

Seek care immediately if:

The following are early signs and 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.

Contact your healthcare provider 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.


You may need any of the following:

  • 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.

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 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 ID bracelet

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 healthcare provider 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.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2018 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

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.

Further information

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

Learn more about Addison Disease (Discharge Care)

Associated drugs

IBM Watson Micromedex