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What are the symptoms of adrenal insufficiency?

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Quick Answer

Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency include muscle weakness and fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, hyperpigmentation and low blood pressure, according to Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms include hypoglycemia, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and irritability.

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Full Answer

Adrenal insufficiency, or Addison’s disease, is an endocrine or hormonal disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough of the hormones cortisol or aldosterone, notes Pituitary Network Association. It is a rare condition that affects approximately 1 in 100,000 people. Cortisol has several important functions, including helping the body respond to stress, maintaining blood pressure, maintaining cardiovascular function and regulating the metabolism of proteins and carbohydrates. Aldosterone helps to maintain blood pressure and water and salt balance in the body. Low aldosterone production prevents the kidneys from properly regulating salt and water balance, which results in a drop in blood volume and blood pressure.

A person with Addison's disease normally manages the condition using hormone replacement therapy to adjust hormone levels that the body is not producing, notes Mayo Clinic. Treatment options include oral corticosteroids, such as fludrocortisone, hydrocortisone, prednisone or cortisone; corticosteroid injections when the use of oral medications is not possible; and androgen replacement therapy, including dehydroepiandrosterone.

Addison’s disease can be life-threatening when blood pressure and blood sugar sink too low and potassium levels are elevated, warns Mayo Clinic. Immediate medical treatment involving intravenous delivery of hydrocortisone, saline solution and dextrose is necessary.

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