Addison's disease is a disorder of the endocrine system. It is a hormonal disorder that can strike anyone, any gender at any age. Addison's disease has also been called Adrenal Insufficiency (hypocortisolism) because the root of the disease is in the adrenal gland not producing enough of the hormone cortisol, or sometimes not enough of the hormone aldosterone to satisfy the body's needs.
Cortisol is in the class of hormones called glucocorticoids and affects almost every organ in the body. One of the most important functions of cortisol is to help regulate the body's response to stress. Cortisol is also responsible for other necessary functions including: helping to maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular functions, helping to slow the immune system's inflammatory response, helping to balance the effects of insulin in breaking down sugars for energy, helping to regulate the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, and helping to maintain proper arousal of sense of well being. The amount of cortisol is precisely balanced and regulated by the brain's hypothalamus.
Aldosterone is in a class of hormones called mineralocorticoids which is also produced by the adrenal glands. The main functions of aldosterone are to help to maintain blood pressure and helping the kidneys retain needed sodium and excrete unwanted potassium to maintain the balance of water and salt in the body.
When adrenal insufficiency occurs, there are many symptoms that begin gradually and therefore the disease can go undiagnosed for years. Some of the most common symptoms are chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Some symptoms that can also occur in some patients are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The previously mentioned symptoms are fairly common with many different disorders however some of the most defining symptoms of Addison's disease are low blood pressure that drops when standing, and skin changes or...
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