|Childhood Adrenal Gland Disorders: Underactivity|
Adrenal gland disorders are due to either underactive or
overactive adrenal glands. Also, adrenal gland disorders vary according
to the actual hormones involved.
First we will look at the case of underactive adrenal glands ( Addison's
Disease ). This section also contains information on , including and .
Addison's disease is the result
of an underactive adrenal gland, producing insufficient amounts of corticosteroid
hormones (e.g. cortisol and aldosterone ).
Corticosteroids help the body respond to stress. 4 in every 100,000 people
have Addison's disease. The causes of Addison's disease include:
- Actual destruction of the adrenal glands through
cancer, infection, or other diseases. This accounts for about one-third
of Addison's disease cases.
- Use of corticosteroids as a treatment causes a
slow down in production of natural corticosteroids by the adrenal glands.
- Certain drugs used to treat fungal infections may
block production of corticosteroids in the adrenal glands.
- Usually, the cause is unknown.
Symptoms and Signs
Mild Addison's disease symptoms may only be apparent when
the patient is under physical stress. The most common symptoms include:
- Dark skin
- Black freckles
- Bluish-black discoloration
around the nipples, mouth,
rectum, scrotum, or vagina
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Muscle aches
- Intolerance to cold
However, each individual may experience symptoms differently.
If not treated, Addison's disease may lead to severe abdominal pain, extreme
weakness, low blood pressure, kidney failure, and shock, especially when
the patient is experiencing physical stress. For more information on the
health repercussions of inadequate corticosteroid production, click
Diagnosis and Treatment
In addition to a complete medical history and medical examination, diagnostic
procedures for Addison's disease may include blood tests to measure corticosteroid
hormone levels and kidney function tests to determine if urine is concentrated.
Since Addison's disease can be life threatening, treatment often begins
with administration of corticosteroids. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone,
may be taken orally or intravenously, depending on the patient's condition.
Usually the patient has to continue taking the corticosteroid the rest
of his/her life. Treatment may also include taking fludrocortisone ,
a drug that helps restore the body's level of sodium and potassium.
The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken
from the following source(s):
From The Merck Manual of Medical Information – Home Edition , edited by Mark H. Beers and Robert Berkow. Copyright 1997 by Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/index.html
University of Maryland Medical System Online Health Guides:
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