What is Addison’s disease?
Addison’s disease affects your body’s adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is a group of glands all over your body that produce and secrete hormones to regulate your body’s processes, including your body’s moods, growth, metabolism and tissue function. The adrenal glands are located just above your kidneys. They produce adrenaline-like hormones and a class of hormones called corticosteroids.
Some of the corticosteroid hormones that your adrenal glands produce include glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. These hormones are essential for life. Glucocorticoids affect how your body responds to stress, your body’s ability to convert food into energy and the immune system’s inflammatory response. Mineralocorticoids maintain your body’s balance of sodium, potassium and water.
In people who have Addison’s disease, the adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol, one of the glucocorticoids. Sometimes, the adrenal glands also fail to produce enough aldosterone, one of the mineralocorticoids.
Addison’s disease is most common among people 30 to 50 years of age, but it can occur at any age and affects men and women equally. It is also called adrenal insufficiency or hypocortisolism.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff