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Adrenal Insufficiency

Adrenal insufficiency occurs when your adrenal glands do not function properly. Adrenal glands, which sit on top of your kidneys, produce many hormones. Cortisol helps your body respond to stress. Aldosterone affects the balance of fluid in your body.

There are two types of adrenal insufficiency:

  • Primary adrenal insufficiency, also known as Addison's disease, is due to the destruction of the adrenal glands by antibodies.
  • Secondary adrenal insufficiciency is usually caused by medications that eventually cause the adrenal gland to stop making cortisol.

Adrenal insufficiency symptoms

  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Weight loss
  • Decreased appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Patches of dark skin on the face, neck or hands
  • Dizziness

How can I get help for adrenal insufficiency?

See your primary care doctor if you have symptoms of adrenal insufficiency. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and order blood tests. You may also need an ACTH stimulation test to see if your adrenal glands are functioning properly.  If you have adrenal insufficiency, your doctor will refer you to an endocrinologist, a hormone specialist.

Care for people with Addison’s disease at Rush

Treatment for adrenal insufficiency involves taking medicine to replace the hormones that your body is not producing. Your endocrinologist will order tests periodically to make sure that your hormone levels are normal.

Why choose Rush for adrenal insufficiency care

  • Adrenal insufficiency can be caused by an infection, cancer or injury. Rush also has specialists to treat you for any of these problems.
  • Endocrinologists at Rush have extensive experience treating people with adrenal insufficiency. They can offer expert care and consultations to other physicians in situations — such as when someone with adrenal insufficiency is undergoing surgery or has an infection — when adrenal insufficiency can be life threatening.

Departments and programs that treat this condition