primary adrenocortical insufficiency

Addison disease

Disease in which gradual atrophy of the adrenal cortex causes the adrenal glands to produce insufficient quantities of the steroid hydrocortisone while causing the pituitary gland to produce excess quantities of pituitary hormones. Most of the cortex tissue is destroyed by the time symptoms (including weakness, abnormal coloration, weight loss, and hypotension) appear. Hydrocortisone-replacement therapy is often successful, usually given with other hormones to stabilize sodium levels. More than half of cases are believed to be due to an autoimmune reaction (see autoimmune disease); the remainder are caused by destruction of the adrenal gland by granuloma (e.g., tuberculosis).

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