Addison's Disease or primary adrenal insufficiency is a rare condition that affects men and women equally. Approximately 39 to 60 people are affected out of every million. It was first described by Thomas Addison in 1855 as a state of laziness and weakness.
Addison's Disease is a severe condition, in which there is a deficiency of a certain hormone produced by the adrenal cortex, called cortisol. This hormone is very vital to our body because it helps maintain our blood pressure, regulate the metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and fats, break down of the sugar for energy, and maintain proper arousal and sense of well being.
Long ago, the common cause associated with Addison's Disease was tuberculosis. But with further research, it was also found out that Addison's Disease can be an autoimmune condition, where the body's immune system produces antibodies that attack the adrenal cells.
The common signs and symptoms related to Addison's Disease are:
• Chronic and worsening fatigue
• Loss of appetite
• Muscle weakness
• Weight loss
• Low blood pressure
• Dark tanning of the skin
Usually, the specific diagnostic test that helps in diagnosing Addison's Disease is ACTH (Adrenocorticotropic Hormone) Stimulation Test. In this test, the blood and urine cortisol are measured before and after a synthetic ACTH is given through injection. The measurement is repeated 30 to 60 minutes after the injection of ACTH. Other tests include X-ray and CT scan.
Treating Addison's Disease is very important. Since specific hormones are deficient in the body, the major treatment is by replacing the hormone with steroids. Other interventions include medications - oral and injectable corticosteroids and hydrocortisones are given to replace cortisol in the body.
The National Institute of Diabetic and Digestive and Kidney Disease has also been studying that dehydroepiandrosterone helps in improving health-related quality of life for Addison's Disease patients.
In Addison's Disease, it is very important to teach and instruct the client about home and self care. These instructions will help them improve and prolong life.
1. Instruct them to carry medical bracelets that will allow other people to recognize his/her condition. It also helps them to call medical attention in emergency cases.
2. Instruct them to carry extra medications especially when they are working or traveling.
3. Always make it clear to them that they must stay in contact with their doctors. If they feel any unusual symptom, instruct them to call their doctors immediately.
4. Do not restrict them with salt. Extra salt are needed especially in humid weather, during exercise and sweating.
5. Instruct them to monitor their weight daily. Also monitor their blood pressure everyday.
With proper replacement of hormones, routine check ups with doctor, avoidance of dehydration, and ample intake of salt, people with Addison's Disease can live a normal life just like others. Thus it prevents complications that might jeopardize the health of the patient.