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Addison's disease is a rare condition. It develops when the adrenal glands, which are located above the kidneys, do not make enough of certain hormones. These hormones are important for normal body function. They help the body cope with stress, hold salt and water, and maintain blood pressure.
Addison's disease usually develops when part of the adrenal glands are destroyed by the body's defences, called the immune system, or by diseases such as tuberculosis or cancer. Some types of surgery and radiation treatments, bleeding caused by blood-thinning medicine, and injury to the gland from a blow to the back, from a motor vehicle crash, or from pregnancy or delivery also can cause the disease.
You will probably need to take medicine for the rest of your life to treat your condition and help prevent an adrenal crisis. A crisis is a steep drop in blood pressure and blood sugar levels caused by extreme physical stress, such as an infection, an injury, surgery, or dehydration.
Over time, if you do not get treatment, too little adrenal hormone can cause other symptoms, such as too much skin pigment. You also may lose weight and be extremely tired.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:
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Current as of: December 2, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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