Adrenal insufficiency, also known as Addison’s disease, is a rare, endocrine disorder that affects around 1 in 100,000 people in the United States. It is estimated that the overall prevalence is between 40 and 60 people per year worldwide. It affects both men and women equally, and it can occur in people of all ages. It occurs due to damage to the adrenal cortex that results in a decline in the production of the steroid hormones – cortisol and aldosterone.
Types of Insufficiency
There are two types: a primary and a secondary type, depending on the causes:
- The primary adrenal insufficiency is caused by the immune system attacking your adrenal gland. Other causes include infections, cancer, prolonged use of glucocorticoids, and use of certain blood thinners.
- The secondary occurs as a result of the inability of your pituitary gland to produce enough adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce its own hormones. The most common cause for secondary adrenal insufficiency is discontinuing the use of corticosteroids used to treat chronic conditions such as asthma and arthritis.
The symptoms usually develop slowly, until a major stressor such as a disease or an injury that causes the symptoms to get worse. Common symptoms include:
- Weight loss and appetite loss;
- Severe fatigue;
- Low blood pressure (characteristic for primary adrenal insufficiency);
- Muscle and joint aches;
- Salt cravings;
- Constipation and diarrhea;
- Low blood sugar levels (characteristic for secondary adrenal insufficiency);
- Hyperpigmentation (characteristic for primary adrenal insufficiency);
- Nausea and vomiting, etc.
The treatment plan depends on what is causing your adrenal insufficiency. The doctor can prescribe glucocorticoids to reduce any present inflammation in addition to hormone replacement medications to replace the adrenal hormones that your adrenal gland fails to produce in the needed amounts. Yoga and meditation can help reduce your stress levels, helping to improve your symptoms and overall health. Call Dr. Achira Endocrinology and Weight loss Center at (313) 600-4669 to Schedule an appointment.