September 01, 2018

Adrenal insufficiency

Replacing hormones

You haven't felt like yourself in recent weeks, and then you seemed to pick up a mild infection that left you absolutely exhausted, with aching joints and without much appetite. Turns out it wasn't an infection after all — as your symptoms dragged on, you visited your doctor and were diagnosed with chronic primary adrenal insufficiency, also known as Addison's disease.

There are a few different forms of adrenal insufficiency, but they're all caused by insufficient production of hormones from the adrenal glands.

Ailing adrenals

Adrenal glands are located on the top of each kidney. Hormones secreted by the adrenal glands include:

  • Cortisol — This helps your body respond to stress, such as from an injury or infection. It also helps glucose metabolism and helps with proper cardiovascular function.
  • Aldosterone — This helps maintain proper blood pressure through the balance of sodium, potassium and water in the body.

There are two main categories of adrenal insufficiency:

  • Primary adrenal insufficiency — This occurs when your adrenal gland is diseased or damaged. Most often, this takes the form of a long-term (chronic) disease — Addison's disease — that occurs when your own immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys adrenal gland tissues.
  • Secondary adrenal insufficiency — The pituitary gland, located in the brain, makes a hormone called ...