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All about Addison's disease causes of Addison's disease symptoms of Addison's disease diagnosis of Addison's disease treatments for Addison's disease

How is Addison's disease diagnosed?

In suspected cases of Addison's disease, one needs to demonstrate that adrenal hormone levels are low after appropriate stimulation with synthetic pituitary hormone. Once demonstrated, the cause of adrenal failure needs to be elucidated. The most common cause is autoimmune, and can be tested for with an assay for 21-hydroxylase antibodies. If there are no

antibodies present, infectious or genetic causes should be sought. This may include imaging of the adrenal glands, tests for tuberculosis or HIV infection, and searching for metastatic cancer.

Many patients do not recognize the slow progression of symptoms and the disease is ultimately identified when a physician notices the areas of increased pigmentation of the skin. Once suspected, a number of blood tests can lead to the diagnosis of Addison's disease. It is not sufficient to demonstrate low blood cortisol levels, as normal levels of cortisol vary quite widely. Instead, patients are given a testing dose of another hormone called corticotropin (ACTH). ACTH is produced in the body by the pituitary gland, and normally acts by promoting growth within the adrenal cortex and stimulating the production and release of cortisol. In Addison's disease, even a dose of synthetic ACTH does not increase cortisol levels.

To distinguish between primary adrenocortical insufficiency (Addison's disease) and secondary adrenocortical insufficiency (caused by failure of the pituitary to produce enough ACTH), levels of ACTH in the blood are examined. Normal or high levels of ACTH indicate that the pituitary is working properly, but the adrenal cortex is not responding normally to the presence of ACTH. This confirms the diagnosis of Addison's disease.

More information on Addison's disease

What is Addison's disease? - Addison's disease (also known as chronic adrenal insufficiency, or hypocortisolism) is a rare endocrine disorder.
What causes Addison's disease? - The most common cause of Addison's disease is the destruction and/or shrinking (atrophy) of the adrenal cortex.
What are the symptoms of Addison's disease? - Symptoms of Addison's disease include severe fatigue and weakness, loss of weight, increased pigmentation of the skin.
How is Addison's disease diagnosed? - Blood tests can lead to the diagnosis of Addison's disease. Patients are given a testing dose of another hormone called corticotropin (ACTH).
What're the treatments for Addison's disease? - Treatment for Addison's disease involves replacing the missing cortisol and providing replacement therapy for the missing aldosterone. 
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Topics in endocrine disorders

Adrenal insufficiency
Addison's disease
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
Conn's syndrome
Cushing's syndrome
Nelson's syndrome
Bartter's syndrome
Adrenocortical carcinoma
Pituitary gland disorders
Thyroid gland disorders

All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005