Adrenal insufficiency

Do you have an upset stomach and is your skin starting to darken? If yes, it is an early sign of adrenal insufficiency.  

Adrenal insufficiency is a condition in which the adrenal gland is not able to produce enough cortisol hormone in the body which is essential to perform necessary functions. So, you must learn about adrenal insufficiency. So that, you can manage this condition and prevent its complications. 

Keep reading this article to get insights about adrenal insufficiency.  

The adrenal gland is situated at the top of your kidneys. It produces many hormones that regulate many functions in the body. Cortisol is a hormone that the adrenal gland produces that regulates blood pressure and the immune system and helps to break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in the body. 

 When your body starts producing a lower amount of cortisol it is called Adrenal insufficiency. This condition is also known as Addison’s disease. You can develop symptoms like weakness, upset stomach, darkening of the skin, low blood pressure, low blood sugar levels, etc. because of adrenal insufficiency. While there is no cure for this condition, you can manage this condition based on the severity of the symptoms you have. Mostly, hormonal replacement therapy is used to treat adrenal insufficiency.  

Causes 

Adrenal insufficiency is caused by several conditions and factors. For example, primary adrenal insufficiency is mostly caused when your immune system starts attacking the adrenal gland by mistake. This can damage the adrenal cortex which surrounds the adrenal glands. This reaction happens due to autoimmune diseases. This cause is more common than other causes because 9 cases out of 10 develop Addison’s disease this way. Secondary adrenal gland insufficiency can happen due to any damage or injury to the pituitary gland or hypothalamus. Some medical conditions treatments also cause secondary adrenal gland insufficiency because it affects the production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) which is produced by the pituitary gland. This ACTH hormone regulates the production of cortisol.  

Other causes that can lead to adrenal insufficiency include: 

  • Cancer 
  • Fungal infections 
  • Pituitary glands disorder 
  • Brain injuries or damage 
  • Pituitary surgeries  
  • Removal of some parts of the hypothalamus 
  • Tuberculosis 
  • Some inflammatory diseases 
  • Inherited disorders of the endocrine glands
     

Types 

There are 3 types of adrenal gland insufficiency: 

  1. Primary adrenal insufficiency: This type of adrenal insufficiency is known as Addison’s disease. In this type, the adrenal gland is damaged and unable to produce enough cortisol and aldosterone in the body. Although this condition is rare, it can happen at any age.  
  2.  Secondary adrenal insufficiency: In this type of adrenal insufficiency, the pituitary gland is not able to produce ACTH hormone in the body (which regulates the production of cortisol hormone).  
  3. Tertiary adrenal insufficiency: In this type, the hypothalamus is damaged which regulates the production of ACTH hormone in the body by the pituitary gland. With less production of this hormone, the adrenal gland will not release enough cortisol hormone in the body.  

Symptoms 

Adrenal insufficiency symptoms can vary from person to person. While symptoms are mild in the beginning, they can worsen over time. These are the most common symptoms found in all types of adrenal insufficiency:  

  • Extreme levels of tiredness or fatigue 
  • Muscles weakness 
  • Low appetite and sudden weight loss 
  • Abdominal pain 

Other symptoms include: 

  • Dizziness 
  • Darkening of skin, especially on the face, neck, and back of the hands.  
  • Blackish color around the nipples, mouth, rectum, vagina, or other places.  
  • Dehydration 
  • Craving salty foods 
  • Muscle aches  
  • Upset stomach 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Low blood pressure  
  • Low blood sugar levels 
  • Irregular or no menstrual periods in women.  
  • Depression 
  • Low sex drive 
  • Irritability  

In case you don’t treat your adrenal insufficiency on time, it can lead to kidney failure, adrenal shock, seizures, extreme levels of weakness, or severe belly pain.  

Management 

While you cannot cure this condition, you can manage your condition with treatment. Treatment depends on your age, symptoms, overall health, and how severe your condition is. Treatment is usually done by medications. Medication can replace the hormone that the adrenal gland is not producing. It is called hormonal replacement therapy.  

Medicines like hydrocortisone are used to replace hormones and are taken in the form of pills. Many people need to take them for life. Some doctors recommend fludrocortisone (to manage the sodium and potassium levels of the body). 

People who have Addison’s disease need treatment with IV (intravenous) fluids and medicines called corticosteroids. Don’t stop the medications without consulting with your doctor because your body is not able to make cortisol right away.  

Adrenal insufficiency happens when your adrenal gland is not able to produce enough cortisol in the body. As a result, the body is not able to manage the functions that are regulated by the cortisol hormone. It can give symptoms that are hard to manage. So, don’t ignore them. Visit your doctor and get yourself checked to start your treatment and prevent serious complications.  

Want to know the tests that can help to diagnose adrenal insufficiency? At Doral Health and Wellness, we have the best endocrinologists to help you manage your condition. For more information, you can visit us at 1797 Pitkin Avenue, Brooklyn, New York, 11212, or call us on +1-347-384-5690. You can also visit our website at https://doralhw.org or contact us at info@doralhw.org if you have any queries.