Addison's Disease

Fact: Addison's Disease affects 1 in 100,000 People

What is Addison's Disease?

Addison's is a rare, chronic endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands do not produce sufficient steroid hormones (glucocorticoids and often mineralocorticoids). It is characterised by a number of relatively nonspecific symptoms, such as abdominal pain and weakness,

Also called adrenal insufficiency, Addison's disease occurs in all age groups and affects both sexes. Addison's disease can be life-threatening.

The adrenal glands are small hormone-releasing organs located on top of each kidney. They are made up of an outer portion, called the cortex, and an inner portion, called the medulla.

Addison disease results from damage to the adrenal cortex. Hormone levels are too low when the cortex is damaged.  

This damage may be caused by the following:

  • The immune system mistakenly attacking the adrenal glands (autoimmune disease)
  • Infections such as tuberculosis, HIV, or fungal infections
  • Hemorrhage into the adrenal glands
  • Tumors

Addisonian crisis

An "Addisonian crisis" or "adrenal crisis" is a constellation of symptoms that indicates severe adrenal insufficiency. It may be because of not knowing that one has Addison's disease, a process of the disease that suddenly affects adrenal function or something such an infection in someone who is known to have Addison's disease. It is a medical emergency and potentially life-threatening situation that requires immediate emergency treatment.

Symptoms of an Addisonian crises may include the following:

  • Sudden penetrating pain in the legs, lower back or abdomen
  • Severe vomiting and diarrhea, resulting in dehydration
  • Low blood pressure
  • Syncope (loss of consciousness and ability to stand)
  • Hypoglycemia (reduced level of blood glucose)
  • Confusion, psychosis, slurred speech
  • Severe lethargy
  • Hyponatremia (low sodium level in the blood)
  • Hyperkalemia (elevated potassium level in the blood)
  • Hypercalcemia (elevated calcium level in the blood)
  • Convulsions
  • Fever

  • Muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Weight loss and decreased appetite
  • Darkening of your skin (hyperpigmentation)
  • Mouth Lesions
  • Paleness
  • Low blood pressure, even fainting
  • Salt craving
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting
  • Muscle or joint pains
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Body hair loss or sexual dysfunction in women
Risk factors for the autoimmune type of Addison disease include other autoimmune diseases:

  • Chronic thyroiditis
  • Dermatis herpetiformis
  • Graves' disease
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Hypopituitarism
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Testicular dysfunction
  • Type I diabetes
  • Vitiligo

Want to learn more?

The following are organizations and/or websites dedicated to providing information and education surrounding Chiari Malformation. These organizations are dedicated to research, education, awareness, and/or support. They are listed in Alphabetical order without any preference or prejudice. Listing these organizations is not a recommendation or referral in any regard for seeking treatment or consultation or support for treatment.

The Mayo Clinic
U.S. National Library of Medicine

Please note: Information and organizations dedicated to Addison's is very limited. If you have information or would like to direct us to an organization that we can include in our list so that others can learn more about Addison's, please email us at: