Addison’s disease is the mirror image of Cushing’s syndrome, so why write about it in a Cushing’s blog? In my case my cortisols swing so low I’m actually Addisonian for periods of time as evidenced by a presentation in an ER in a state of adrenal crisis and some labs I have documenting cortisols in that range. I recently met two other folks in the same situation on Facebook so there are folks out there in the Cushie community for whom this is a relevant subject. So let’s give it a whirl.
As I mentioned in the opening, Addison’s disease is the mirror image of Cushing’s syndrome and Cushing’s disease. It is a condition where the cortisols are too low and is lethal if left untreated. The pathology may be autoimmune disorders and it is often associated with them, trauma, or infection. The symptoms may include:
· Changes in blood pressure, generally a lowering of the blood pressure.
· Chronic diarrhea, vomiting, nausea resulting in loss of appetite and weight loss.
· Darkening of the skin in places causing a splotchy look.
· Extreme weakness fatigue and sluggishness.
· Mouth lesions inside the cheek.
· Salt craving.
· The patient may also develop vitiligo, an abnormal whitening of the skin in patches.
The lab values associated with Addison’s are:
· Abnormally low cortisols.
· High potassium levels
· Low sodium levels.
The victim of Addison’s disease may also suffer from autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s disease and may also suffer from pernicious anemia. Addison’s is also more common in frequency than Cushing’s.
Sufferers of Addison’s may also go into adrenal crisis, which I wrote about here:
For the person whose cortisols swing both ways this means we get the worse of both worlds. I have pernicious anemia and the compromise to bodily healing which takes place when the cortisols are so low makes my back situation even worse. I also suffer from a very rare manifestation of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Recurring posterior scleritis, an autoimmune disease. As I mentioned earlier I’ve had several bouts with adrenal crisis. I do have a little tanning going on, but it’s mild and it is splotchy.
Those with Addison’s have to be very careful because their immune responses are compromised, so they need to contact their doctors in any of the following cases:
Their medications may need adjusting. It goes without saying that a cyclical Cushie or Addisonian with extreme cycles needs to do the same.
Although I did mention that Addisonians are more common than Cushies, they are rare as well. Their situation is serious and they need all the help and support they can get from family and friends. Just as with Cushing’s, family and significant ones should become familiar with the nature of the disease. In the case of the extreme emergency which constitutes a crisis it is especially necessary for family, friends and coworkers to know the symptoms.