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Addison Disease


Addison disease is also called primary adrenal insufficiency. It is a condition where your adrenal glands do not make enough adrenal hormones. These hormones help your body deal with stress, keep blood pressure normal, and balance salt and fluids. They also control how your body uses sugars, fats, and proteins. Addison disease can lead to an adrenal crisis (Addisonian crisis) if your adrenal gland becomes badly damaged. This is life-threatening and needs immediate treatment.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Intravenous therapy:

This is a liquid given to replace the fluid that your body had lost. It will help keep the fluid and salt balance in your body normal.


  • Steroid medicine: Steroids are given to balance the steroid hormone levels your adrenal glands naturally make. This medicine may help you feel better, but may also have unwanted effects. You may need to take this medicine for the rest of your life. You may need to change how much medicine you take when you are ill or have increased stress. Do not stop taking this medicine without talking to your healthcare provider. You can trigger an adrenal crisis if you stop taking steroids suddenly.


  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken for tests. These tests tell your healthcare provider how high or low the levels of hormones are in your blood. Other blood tests may be done to give your healthcare providers more information about your health. The blood can be taken from a blood vessel in your hand, arm, or the bend in your elbow. You may need to have blood drawn more than once.
  • Chemical stimulation tests: Your blood will be tested first. Then you will be given a shot of chemicals that cause your adrenal glands to make hormones. After several minutes, your hormone levels in your blood are tested again. Ask your healthcare provider for information about this test.
  • EEG: This test is also called an electroencephalogram. Many small pads or metal discs are put on your head. Each has a wire that is hooked to a machine. This machine prints a paper tracing of brain wave activity from different parts of your brain. Healthcare providers look at the tracing to see how your brain is working. With Addison disease you may have slow brain waves that are causing some of your symptoms.
  • Imaging tests: These tests may be done to see why you have Addison disease. They can show cancers, infection, or bleeding of your adrenal glands. Certain tests use a special dye to help pictures show up better. People who are allergic to iodine or shellfish (lobster, crab, or shrimp) may be allergic to some dyes. Tell your healthcare provider if you are allergic to shellfish, or have other allergies or medical conditions.
    • Computed tomography scan: This is also called CT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your adrenal glands. It may also be used to look at tissues, bones, muscles, and blood vessels. Before taking the pictures, you may be given dye through an intravenous (IV) tube in your vein.
    • Magnetic resonance imaging: This test is also called a MRI. During the MRI, pictures of your adrenal glands are taken. You will need to lie still during the test. Never enter the MRI room with an oxygen tank, watch, or any other metal objects. This can cause serious injury.
  • Urine test: This test measures the amount of adrenal hormones in your urine. Ask your healthcare provider for more information about this test.

Vital signs:

Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.


You may be weighed each day. Caregivers compare your weight from day to day to record how much body fluid you have. You can become dehydrated if you lose too much. You can have shortness of breath or swelling in your legs if you retain too much.


You may have an allergic response to the medicines used to treat your disease. The medicines may cause you to gain weight or bruise easily. You may have fast heartbeats and muscle weakness. Over time, your bones may become brittle and break easier. If you do not treat Addison's disease or stop taking your medicine, you to have changes in behavior and delusions (hear voices). You can have an adrenal crisis if you do not take your medicine or do not get treatment. An adrenal crisis can make you lose body fluid and decrease your blood pressure too much. This may cause you to go into a coma and you may die.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

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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.