Seriously, what is Adrenal Insufficiency?
When I first heard the term “adrenal insufficiency” – also known as Addison’s Disease – I felt like I was learning a whole new language. Adrenal Insufficiency was followed up by the words cortisol, aldosterone, and ACTH.
Here’s a definition for each of these words, and why they matter to someone that has been diagnosed with Addison’s.
Scientists think that cortisol has possibly hundreds of effects on the body. Cortisol’s most important job is to help the body respond to stress.
When aldosterone production falls too low, the kidneys are not able to regulate salt and water balance, causing blood volume and blood pressure to drop.
When the adrenals receive the pituitaries signal in the form of ACTH, they respond by producing cortisol.
Primary Adrenal Insufficiency
Most cases of Addison’s Disease occur when the adrenal cortex has been destroyed by antibodies created by the bodies own autoimmune system. The adrenal insufficiency occurs when over 90% of the adrenal cortex has been destroyed. As a result, your body stops producing adequate levels of Cortisol and Aldosterone.
Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency
This form of Addison’s Disease is less common and occurs when your body stops producing ACTH. This results in decreased levels of Cortisol, but Aldosterone levels are not affected.
What are the Symptoms?
Chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, low blood pressure, skin hyperpigmentation, irritability, and depression are the most common symptoms. The symptoms come on gradually, and most people don’t know they have Addison’s until an “Addisonian Crisis” occurs and they seek help.
Symptoms of an Addisonian crisis include sudden penetrating pain in the lower back, abdomen, or legs; severe vomiting and diarrhea, followed by dehydration; low blood pressure; and loss of consciousness.
Because of the dangers of an Addisonian Crisis, daily supplementation with replacement steroids is necessary. Individual dosing requirements vary, but in addition to supplementing with cortisol (hydrocortisone), and Fludrocortisone Acetate, most people take several other supplements to help them lead fuller lives.
This is what is currently included in my wife’s regimen.
With all these pills, it’s imperative that you have a good system in place to know when to take each pill and to also be able to see what pills need to be called into the pharmacy (or Amazon).
To handle those two tasks she has this Pill Stacker to help her keep track of which meds to take. She also uses a Fitbit. The Fitbit has an alarm function that allows her to set reminders for when she has to take each supplement. Lastly, she wears a medical ID bracelet. RoadID makes great medical IDs that attach right to her Fitbit Charge.
I think that’s all for today. I hope this information has been helpful for you no matter where you are in your journey of learning about Addison’s Disease. If you have questions, connect with us on social media, or drop a note in the comment box below.