Addison’s disease is a disorder involving the adrenal glands. There is one adrenal gland located just above each kidney.
They make essential hormones, including cortisol and aldosterone. When a person has Addison’s disease, their adrenal glands don’t make enough of these hormones. If your older family member has been diagnosed with Addison’s disease, understanding more about it can help you to know what kind of care they need.
About Addison’s Disease
Addison’s disease can happen in both men and women and in people of any age group. It’s caused when something damages the adrenal glands. The hormones that they produce are necessary provide instructions to nearly every organ and system in the body. Without proper amounts, the workings of the body can be seriously compromised.
Untreated, Addison’s disease can result in an Addisonian crisis if the older adult gets ill, has an infection, or injures themselves. In a healthy body, under similar circumstances, the body produces higher levels of cortisol. Addison’s disease results in the adrenal glands being unable to produce enough cortisol. This causes blood pressure and blood sugar levels to drop to dangerously low levels. It also causes there to be too much potassium in the blood. An Addisonian crisis requires emergency medical attention.
Signs of an Addisonian crisis are:
- Feeling extremely weak.
- Being confused.
- Pain in the legs or lower part of the back.
- Severe pain in the abdomen.
- Vomiting and diarrhea that can lead to dehydration.
- Low blood pressure.
Symptoms Caused by Addison’s Disease
The symptoms of Addison’s disease typically come on gradually over a period of months. Many people don’t notice the symptoms because they’re mild at first. They may continue to go unnoticed until something causes physical stress, making the symptoms worsen.
Symptoms of Addison’s disease include:
- Excessive fatigue.
- Lack of appetite resulting in weight loss.
- Skin getting darker.
- Low blood pressure, which may cause fainting.
- Unusual cravings for salty foods.
- Low blood sugar.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting or diarrhea.
- Pain in the abdomen.
- Pain in muscles and joints.
- Loss of body hair.
Elderly care can assist older adults who have Addison’s disease.
Treatment for the disease involves taking hormone replacements. Elderly care providers can remind the senior to take their medications so that hormone levels don’t fall too low. People with Addison’s also need extra salt in their diet, which elderly care providers can help with by preparing foods that increase sodium intake. Elderly care providers can watch for signs of an Addisonian crisis, too, making sure the senior gets emergency help when needed.
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