Adrenal Insufficiency Treatment in Gaithersburg, MD
The adrenal glands, located atop each of the kidneys, produce steroid hormones vital to the body's metabolism and other bodily functions, especially its stress response. Cortisol and aldosterone are two important hormones for maintaining blood pressure, regulating the immune systems inflammatory response and regulating our metabolism. When the adrenal glands are unable to produce enough of these hormones, your body can suffer serious reactions which can lead to adrenal insufficiency (AI).
There are two forms of adrenal insufficiency:
- Primary Adrenal Insufficiency: Commonly known as Addison's disease, primary adrenal insufficiency is a rare disorder often triggered by an autoimmune disease and is an impairment of the adrenal glands in which they fail to produce enough cortisol.
- Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency: The more common type of AI, secondary adrenal insufficiency is caused by the impairment of the pituitary gland (a small gland at the base of the brain) in which it fails to produce enough adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH is responsible for stimulating the adrenal glands to produce cortisol.
To schedule a consultation with an adrenal gland specialist in Gaithersburg that focuses on adrenal insufficiency treatment, call (410) 204-2254 or contact Dr. Karen Clarke-Bennett online.
Adrenal Insufficiency Symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms of adrenal insufficiency include:
- Profound fatigue
- Decrease in appetite
- Weight loss
- Digestive issues including nausea and/or vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain
- Muscle weakness
- Lowered blood pressure, especially upon standing
- Changes in mood including irritability and/or depression
- Craving for high-salt foods
- Changes in menstruation
- Increased perspiration
- Lack of sex drive in women
An adrenal crisis occurs when there is a sudden, extreme worsening of these symptoms. In most cases the symptoms will cause a patient to seek treatment before a crisis is reached, but occasionally adrenal insufficiency symptoms are not diagnosed until an adrenal crisis occurs. Symptoms of adrenal crisis can include:
- Sudden onset of extreme lower body pain (including abdominal pain and pain in the lower back and/or legs)
- Extreme vomiting and/or diarrhea
- Hypoglycemia (low blood pressure)
- Fainting and/or loss of consciousness
If not treated immediately, adrenal crisis can be fatal.
Adrenal Insufficiency Test
Because the symptoms of adrenal insufficiency can present gradually, early diagnosis is uncommon. Diagnosis typically begins with a thorough physical exam, including a series of questions related to medical history and current symptoms, but the results of an adrenal insufficiency test are central to any diagnosis.
There is controversy as to which adrenal insufficiency test is most helpful in aiding proper diagnosis; therefore, both the ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) test and the CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone) test are usually employed. These tests stimulate the release of the adrenal hormones. Your healthcare provider may also check the baseline cortisol and ACTH levels in your blood. Imaging tests of the adrenal gland can also be useful in diagnosis.
Adrenal Insufficiency Treatment
The length of treatment of adrenal insufficiency is often dependent on whether you have primary or secondary AI. Those with Addison's disease will likely require lifelong treatment whereas treatment for secondary AI may be short-term. Since both forms of AI cause a reduced production of cortisol which create the symptoms, treatment focuses on the replacement of this critical hormone. Cortisol is replaced with glucocorticoids, taken orally once or twice a day, depending on your needs. Fludrocortisone acetate, a mineralocorticoid, is used daily to replace aldosterone, if also deficient. This is taken orally as well. It helps to keep fluid and salt levels at regular safe levels in the body. In cases of adrenal crisis, doctors may give IV doses of these replacement hormones.
Schedule a consultation with an endocrine specialist in Gaithersburg that focuses on adrenal insufficiency treatment! Call (410) 204-2254 or contact Dr. Karen Clarke-Bennett online.
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