What is Underactive Adrenal Glands / Addison's disease?
Addison's disease is the result of an underactive adrenal gland. An underactive adrenal gland produces insufficient amounts of cortisol (a steroid hormone that helps to control the body's use of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, suppresses inflammatory reactions in the body, and affects immune system functions) and aldosterone (a steroid hormone that controls sodium and potassium in the blood). Addison's disease is considered rare. Onset of this disease may occur at any age.
What causes Addison's disease?
Destruction of the adrenal gland due to an auto-immune response is the most common cause of the disease. Some Addison's disease cases are caused by the actual destruction of the adrenal glands through cancer, infection, or other diseases. Other causes may include:
Treatment of Addison's disease:
The goal of treatment is to restore the adrenal glands to normal function, producing normal levels of corticosteroid hormones. Specific treatment for Addison's disease will be determined by your physician based on:
Since Addison's disease can be life threatening, treatment often begins with administration of corticosteroids. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, may be taken orally or intravenously, depending on the patient's condition. Usually the patient has to continue taking the corticosteroid the rest of his/her life. Treatment may also include taking fludrocortisone, a drug that helps restore the body's level of sodium and potassium.