Some people with adrenal insufficiency have no symptoms unless they're exposed
What Are the Adrenal Glands?
There are two adrenal (eh-DREE-nul) glands, which sit above the kidneys.
They make important hormones that:
help the body handle stress
control blood pressure
balance salt levels
What Causes Adrenal Insufficiency?
There are two types of adrenal insufficiency:
In primary adrenal insufficiency, the adrenal glands either are
damaged or have a genetic problem. They don't make enough of the hormone
cortisol. Sometimes, they also don't make enough of the hormone aldosterone, which
helps control salt balance in the body.
In central adrenal insufficiency, the
in the brain doesn't make enough of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH),
which triggers cortisol production in the adrenal glands.
There's also a temporary type of adrenal insufficiency. This can happen if someone
is being treated with high doses of cortisol-like medicines, such as prednisone, and
the medicine is suddenly decreased or stopped.
How Is Adrenal Insufficiency Diagnosed?
Doctors diagnose adrenal insufficiency with blood
tests to check hormone levels. They also might order:
an ACTH stimulation test to see how the body responds to an injection of adrenocorticotropic
Doctors treat adrenal insufficiency by giving replacement hormones. They might
a corticosteroid taken by mouth several times a day to replace
a medicine called fludrocortisone taken by mouth to replace
and balance the body's levels of salt and fluids
Corticosteroid doses often need to increase during times of illness or stress.
What Is an Adrenal Crisis?
Sometimes, symptoms can suddenly become much worse, usually when someone is stressed
by illness or injury. This is called an adrenal crisis. It needs
medical treatment right away. Someone having an adrenal crisis needs to go to the
hospital for IV (given into a vein) fluids and further doses of corticosteroids.
Signs of an adrenal crisis can include:
sweating a lot
loss of consciousness
Kids and teens with adrenal insufficiency should:
always wear a medical alert ID
always have injectable steroid with them and all caregivers should learn how to
When Should I Call 911?
If your child shows signs of an adrenal crisis, give the injectable steroid and
call 911 right away.