What is adrenal insufficiency? Let’s have a look, along with its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
The adrenal glands are small but very powerful glands that are located on top of each of the kidneys. These glands are actually two separate organs that are combined in a single location. The outer portion is called the adrenal cortex and the inner portion is known as the adrenal medulla.
The main function of the adrenal cortex is secretion of hormones, along with the regulation of the minerals metabolism, water balance, distribution and utilization of proteins, carbohydrates, and fat, and lastly immune reactions such as allergies and hypersensitivity. Adrenal insufficiency occurs when approximately 90% of the adrenal cortex has been destroyed.
The insufficiency can be caused by a varied set of medical conditions. Some of the most prominent conditions are:
- Addison’s Disease: This condition occurs in about 1 in 100,000 people, and causes the gradual destruction of the adrenal cortex by the body’s own immune system. Most of the cases reported are caused by autoimmune disorders, wherein, the immune system of the body makes antibodies that attack the body’s own tissues and organs, and destroys them slowly.
- Tuberculosis: This infection can destroy the adrenal glands. In developed countries, tuberculosis causes about 20% of the adrenal insufficiency cases.
- Polyendocrine Deficiency Syndrome: This syndrome is classified as Type I and Type II. Type I occurs in children, and is often accompanied with slow sexual development, chronic active hepatitis, and hair loss. Type II is also known as Schimdt’s syndrome, and is seen in young adults. This syndrome is also accompanied by an under active thyroid gland, slow sexual development, and loss of pigmentation on areas of the skin.
People suffering from adrenal insufficiency usually display the following symptoms:
- Blood pressure is usually low and drops further to the extent of 105/60 on standing. On reclining, the blood pressure can become as high as 130/80. This variation in blood pressure makes it difficult for affected individuals to fall asleep, and can also cause other conditions like temporary darkening of the vision, dizziness, faintness, and fainting.
- Individuals display lymph gland inflammation of the neck that is there is swelling, pain or tenderness in the lymph glands.
- The skin is thin, dry or scaly. There is pigmentation of the temples, red palms that are always cold, and red fingertips.
- Urination is either very frequent with very small amount of urine, or very infrequent with very large quantity of urine.
- The body is of the thin muscle type. These individuals are tall with an angular appearance and long neck. The index finger is longer than the ring finger, and the second toe is longer than the big toe.
- There is very scanty perspiration, except under the arms, hands, and feet. Further, the urine and the sweat will be saltier than normal people, and there will be a greater concentration of salt on the skin.
- These people feel pain and tenderness over the adrenal area of the mid back when a little pressure is applied. This condition is known as the Rogoff’s sign.
The treatment includes replacing or substituting the hormones that the adrenal glands make. Usually, oral tablets along with a diet plan are prescribed by the doctor. The tablets are prescribed after analyzing as to which hormones have to be replaced. Remember that the prescription of one individual will very vastly from another individual, so do not discuss your medication with anyone except your doctor. Intake of salt and sugar water solution may be advised to people who suffer from low blood pressure. Further, there may be the issue that a particular tablet or the dosage of the tablet is not working for you. Do not hesitate to contact your doctor for every little doubt that you have.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.