Addison's Disease in Tarpon Springs, FL
Your adrenal glands are an important part of your endocrine system, delivering operating instructions to virtually every organ in your body in order to maintain overall function. Comprised of two sections - the interior (the medulla) which produces adrenaline-like hormones, and the outer layer (the cortex) which produces a group of stress-regulating hormones called corticosteroids - the adrenal glands help support your overall wellbeing by producing the hormones necessary to thrive in stressful situations. Important corticosteroid hormones the cortex produces that are essential for proper bodily function include:
- Glucocorticoids: Hormones including cortisol which influence the body’s ability to convert food fuels into energy, and which play a role in your immune system’s inflammatory response.
- Mineralocorticoids: Hormones including aldosterone which maintain your body’s balance of sodium and potassium to maintain adequate blood pressure levels.
- Androgens: Male sex hormones, of which small quantities are produced in men and women, support sexual development, muscle mass and libido.
However, when your adrenal glands become damaged and fail to produce enough of these important hormones, a condition called Addison's disease (also known as primary adrenal insufficiency) sets in. Not to be confused with secondary adrenal insufficiency - a condition that occurs when your pituitary gland fails to produce enough adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) - primary adrenal insufficiency occurs as the result of gradual destruction of the adrenal cortex, which causes your adrenal glands to fail in producing enough cortisol. Addison's disease causes improper bodily function, fatigue and, most severely, Addisonian crisis, a domino effect of numerous worsening symptoms that may be life-threatening.
To schedule a consultation with a hormone specialist in Tarpon Springs that specializes in Addison's disease treatment, call (813) 536-3212 or contact Erin Bolton online.
Addison's Disease Symptoms
While clearly identifiable signs of Addison's disease may not immediately present themselves, instead developing slowly over the course of several months, common Addison's disease symptoms to look out for include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Decreased appetite and associated weight loss
- Darkened skin (hyperpigmentation)
- Decreased heart rate or low blood pressure
- Salt craving
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle or joint pain
- Irritability or depression
- Body hair loss or sexual dysfunction in women
If left untreated, Addison's disease symptoms can worsen and a life-threatening situation known as an Addisonian crisis (acute adrenal crisis) can follow, which could cause symptoms including dizziness, vomiting and loss of consciousness. The result of an Addisonian crisis is a combination of extremely low levels of cortisol, low blood sugar levels and high blood levels of potassium that warrant immediate medical attention including intravenous injections of:
- Saline solution
- Sugar (dextrose)
Addison's Disease Treatment
An Addison's disease diagnosis may follow a number of tests given by your healthcare provider. An official diagnosis will be preceded by a discussion of your medical history as well as any signs and symptoms you are experiencing. If your healthcare provider suspects that you have Addison's disease, he or she may choose to start with an Addison's disease blood test, which will measure the levels of sodium, potassium, cortisol and adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) in your blood to determine whether adrenal insufficiency may be causing your signs and symptoms. Further testing will include:
- ACTH stimulation test: A test to measure the level of cortisol in your blood before and after an injection of synthetic ACTH, which will stimulate your adrenal glands to produce cortisol if healthy.
- Imaging tests: CT scans of your abdomen can visualize the size of your adrenal glands and investigate for further abnormalities that may explain the cause of your adrenal insufficiency.
Addison's disease treatment in all forms involves hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to replenish insufficient steroid hormones your body has failed to produce. Common forms of hormone replacement include:
- Oral corticosteroids: Hydrocortisone (Cortef), prednisone or cortisone acetate may be used to replace cortisol, while fludrocortisone may be prescribed to replace aldosterone.
- Corticosteroid injections: This treatment to replace cortisol may be used if you’re too ill to hold down oral medications.
When discussing treatment options, your healthcare provider may also recommend Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT), which utilizes hormones that are biologically identical to those your body naturally produces in order to help balance your hormones by rejuvenating your natural levels of cortisol.
Addison's disease can drain you of your energy, appetite and cause unneeded stress and pain. Schedule a consultation with a qualified hormone specialist in Tarpon Springs that can treat your Addison's disease, and get back to being you! Call (813) 536-3212 or contact Erin Bolton online.
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