Thursday, July 19, 2012

Addison's Disease

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.
·        Paleness
·        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:

·        Infection.
·        Stress.
·        Injury.
·        Surgery.
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.


  1. Hi again Stanley. I hope you see my comment on your other blog.

    The more I read, the more I wish to hug you. You're such a bubbly person, I would have NEVER thought you had so many medical problems. Please keep your head up, you've got SO MUCH to live for.

    Big Hugs,

  2. Thank you Courtney:

    On Facebook I'm a member of a number of support groups for those with Cushing's syndrome. One of the other members started a campaign to raise awareness of this rare disease and how debilitating it is. She covered all bases encouraging folks who could to start blogs, vlogs and sites if they could. I'd been thinking of starting this blog, but that provided the final nudge after my first surgery this year do do so once I recovered.

    Doing things of this sort and being there for others suffering from Cushing's helps to keep my mind off a good bit of my own sufferings. I'm looking into starting a local support group as well since I know there are a number of Cushies here locally. Keeping busy is one key to coping.

    But I'm also going after the disease as directly as I can. I've waited for many years now while doctors sat on it and that's not an option anymore. Since there are now options I didn't have before something's going to get done about it, period. If you looked at my post on coping you probably noticed my first piece of advise was "fight!" There are more options open to folks with ectopic tumors than there used to be so I'm practicing what I preach. Of course I'll blog about it as I go along.

    I looked at your posts but something went wrong when I tried to comment and I couldn't get the connection through. Just hang in there Courtney. I've known a number of people who had the same procedure you did and your experiences to date are quite normal. It isn't easy, but I'm assured worth the effort. I did manage to subscribe to your posts, so I'll be keeping up with your efforts.

    Stanley Loper