Addison's Disease - Treatments

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How is Addison's disease treated?

Treatment of Addison's disease involves replacing, or substituting, the hormones that the adrenal glands are not making. Cortisol is replaced orally with hydrocortisone tablets, a synthetic glucocorticoid, taken once or twice a day. If aldosterone is also deficient, it is replaced with oral doses of a mineralocorticoid called fludrocortisone acetate (Florinef), which is taken once a day. Patients receiving aldosterone replacement therapy are usually advised by a doctor to increase their salt intake. Because patients with secondary adrenal insufficiency normally maintain aldosterone production, they do not require aldosterone replacement therapy. The doses of each of these medications are adjusted to meet the needs of individual patients.

During an addisonian crisis, low blood pressure, low blood glucose, and high levels of potassium can be life threatening. Standard therapy involves intravenous injections of hydrocortisone, saline (salt water), and dextrose (sugar). This treatment usually brings rapid improvement. When the patient can take fluids and medications by mouth, the amount of hydrocortisone is decreased until a maintenance dose is achieved. If aldosterone is deficient, maintenance therapy also includes oral doses of fludrocortisone acetate.

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See what others are saying

Comment from: Cindy, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 17

I was diagnosed with Cushing Syndrome in 1997 - I was grossly overweight and felt miserable all of the time. After many doctors I had a CT scan and found benign tumors on my adrenals. I then had a bilateral laparoscopic adrenalectomy. That was in 2003. I have lost weight, have darkening of my skin and feel exhausted all of the time. I now have low blood pressure which causes the fainting, I have had a few Addisonian crisis that have scared my family. All in all I manage pretty well. We should start a support group.

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Comment from: Tracey, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: January 14

I was diagnosed with Addison's disease 3 months ago after being unwell for months. I was not eating or drinking very much or sleeping. I couldn't think properly, lacked concentration and became very grey looking. My mother died in July and my doctor diagnosed depression as the cause for all my symptoms. When my symptoms worsened I could not even keep a sip of water down or stay sitting up or holding my head up. My whole body ached and I told my doctor I felt I was dying. I was admitted to the hospital where it took 10 days to diagnose Addison's. I had many blood tests and scans during the 3 weeks I was there and began to improve when I was given hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone along with high doses of vitamin D. I have not been able to return to work yet due to extreme fatigue. Over the last two weeks I've been fighting a stomach bug and a very sore throat so they doubled my hydrocortisone which has helped. I'm hoping I will improve and be as well as the text books say Addisonians get after treatment! Either way it's good to know I am not suffering from depression and I am feeling better than I was prior to diagnosis.

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