Addison's Disease

Addison's disease is an endocrine or hormonal disorder that occurs in all age groups and afflicts men and women equally. The disease is characterized by weight loss, muscle weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure, and sometimes darkening of the skin in both exposed and nonexposed parts of the body. Addison's disease occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough of the hormone cortisol and, in some cases, the hormone aldosterone. The disease is also called adrenal insufficiency, or hypocortisolism.

Now let us know what this cortisol is? Cortisol is normally produced by the adrenal glands, located just above the kidneys. Cortisol's most important job is to help the body respond to stress. Among its other vital tasks, cortisol:

  • helps maintain blood pressure and heart function
  • helps slow the immune system's inflammation response
  • helps balance the effects of insulin in breaking down sugar for energy
  • helps regulate the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
  • helps maintain proper arousal and sense of well-being.

Failure to produce adequate levels of cortisol can occur for different reasons. The problem may be due to a disorder of the adrenal glands themselves (primary adrenal insufficiency) or to inadequate secretion of ACTH by the pituitary gland (secondary adrenal insufficiency).

Types and Causes

Near total or total destruction of both adrenal glands results in loss of both cortisol and aldosterone secretion causing classical Addison's disease.

Yet, most commonly, one of the two types predominate. Primary adrenal insufficiency is one type of Addison's disease, resulting from the body's immune system attacking its own cells since it fails to identify the adrenals as part of the body's own cells (auto-immune).

Here the tissues of the adrenal glands are attacked by the body's own immune system thus killing them. This eventually causes reduced to complete failure of production of the adrenocorticoid hormones.

Other factors causing primary adrenal insufficiency are:

  • Infections of the adrenals
  • Bleeding into the adrenals
  • Spread of cancer to adrenals
  • Tuberculosis

Secondary adrenal insufficiency is the second type of Addison's disease.

The functions of the adrenals are very much under the control of a higher hormone controlling gland called 'the pituitary'. This gland is situated deep within the brain and secretions from it regulate the activity of the adrenals. Diseases affecting the pituitary cause reduced activation of the adrenals, producing insufficiency.

Sudden stoppage of corticosteroids used in the treatment of medical conditions like asthma or arthritis can also precipitate secondary adrenal insufficiency.

Characteristics of the disease are:

  • chronic, worsening fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss

About 50 percent of the time, one will notice:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

Other symptoms include:

  • low blood pressure that falls further when standing, causing dizziness or fainting
  • skin changes in Addison's disease, with areas of hyperpigmentation, or dark tanning, covering exposed and nonexposed parts of the body; this darkening of the skin is most visible on scars; skin folds; pressure points such as the elbows, knees, knuckles, and toes; lips; and mucous membranes

Addison's disease can cause irritability and depression. Because of salt loss, a craving for salty foods also is common. Hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose, is more severe in children than in adults. In women, menstrual periods may become irregular or stop.

Because the symptoms progress slowly, they are usually ignored until a stressful event like an illness or an accident causes them to become worse. This is called an addisonian crisis, or acute adrenal insufficiency.

In such cases our programs at bodhin are beneficial to patients. Homoeopathy is based on the principle that disease is a total affliction of body. Moreover homoeopathy recognizes importance of root cause such as genetic and inherited factors as a root of any ailment of the body. Timely-administered homoeopathy medicines not only assist in maintaining levels of sugar, protein and fat metabolism, but also helps in preventing further progress and hence complications of the disease


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