Addison's Disease - Adrenocortical Hypofunction

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  • Topic: Cortisol, Aldosterone, Adrenal cortex
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  • Published : December 6, 2011
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Running head: ADDISON'S DISEASE 1

Addison's Disease


Addison's disease is a disorder that occurs when a person's adrenal glands produce insufficient amounts of certain hormones. When Addison's diseased was first discovered the endocrine system was not yet completely understood therefore the disease itself was for the most part fatal. After years of research and medical breakthroughs Addison's disease is now a disease in which someone can live a normal life as long as a daily dose of replacement medications are being ingested. Through this concise research Addison's disease has been examined from the time that Dr. Addison wrote his now famed article on suprarenal capsules all the way through the fairly simplistic method of treating the disease. The research covers the adrenal glands in depth to include the hormones it produces, signs and symptoms of Addison's disease, diagnosis of Addison's disease, and finally the treatment.


Adrenocortical hypofunction, chronic adrenocortical insufficiency, or primary adrenal insufficiency are all medical terms for Addison's disease. Addison's disease is a “disorder that occurs when the adrenal's glands do not produce enough of their hormone” (PubMed, 2009).

Addison's disease is named after Dr. Thomas Addison who was a renowned 19th century physician. Dr. Addison made his famed discovery while working at Guy's Hospital in England. He wrote an article regarding his findings in the London Medical Gazette titled, "On the Constitutional and Local Effects of Disease of the Suprarenal Capsules" (Pearce, 2004). Dr. Armand Trousseau of Paris corroborated Addison's findings and coined the disease Addison's Disease (Pearce, 2004).

Addison's disease can affect both male and female regardless of age. Addison's disease occurs when the adrenal glands failed to produce enough of its hormone. The adrenal glands are small hormone secreting glands that are located atop each kidney on the retroperitoneum (MedlinePlus, 2011). There are two portions to adrenal glands, the inner part called the medulla and the outer part called the cortex. Both parts are capable of producing hormones that are critical in order for the human body to maintain a homeostasis. The medulla produces epinephrine and norepinephrine while the cortex produces cortisol, aldosterone and testosterone. The hormones that not being produced when diagnosed with Addison's disease are cortisol and/or aldosterone. Cortisol belongs to a class of hormone known as glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids affect ADDISON'S DISEASE 4

almost every organ and tissue in the body and therefore it is vital for healthy living. Cortisol is used in a myriad of different ways such as helping to maintain blood pressure and heart function, slows the immune system's inflammation response, helps balance the effects of insulin in breaking down glucose for energy, regulates proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, maintains proper arousal and sense of well-being, and most importantly is helps the body respond to stress (MedicineNet, 2011). The amount of cortisol produced is precisely balanced in order for the body to work at an optimal level. Like many other hormones the hypothalamus and pituitary glands control the secretion. The hypothalamus sends "releasing hormones" to the pituitary gland which then in turn releases adrenocorticotropin (ACTH). ACTH is an adrenal gland stimulating hormone that when it reaches the adrenal glands the adrenal glands respond by producing cortisol. Cortisol once produced...
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