What are the risk factors for cases of autoimmune disorders leading to Addison’s disease?

What are the risk factors for cases of autoimmune disorders leading to Addison’s disease?

Below is a list of various autoimmune conditions which may increases the risk of Addison’s disease development:

  • Inflammation (swelling) of the thyroid gland may often result in the reduced functioning of the thyroid, this is known as chronic thyroiditis. Initially, the inflammation will result in excess thyroid hormones being produced, this is known as hyperthyroidism. Over a period of time, the ongoing inflammation will prevent the thyroid from making adequate amounts of hormones, this is known as hypothyroidism. The thyroid and adrenal glands work together to produce a number of essential hormones, if the thyroid glands are damaged, then the functioning of the adrenal glands may take a subsequent knock. Another issue with the thyroid includes hypoparathyroidism. This is when the parathyroid glands do not make enough of their hormones.
  • An itchy rash accompanied by blisters and bumps known as dermatitis herpetiformis.
  • Hypopituitarism, this occurs when the pituitary gland does not make enough hormones and is therefore unable to stimulate the adrenal gland to produce its hormones. The pituitary gland stimulates the adrenal cortices to produce their hormones.
  • Myasthenia gravis (MG), which is a condition that results in the weakening of muscles that are controlled by the nerves.
  • Type 1 diabetes

Secondary adrenal insufficiency

It is also possible for adrenal insufficiency to occur when the pituitary gland is infected or diseased. Your pituitary gland produces a hormone known as ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). This hormone stimulates the adrenal cortex to produce vital hormones.

If there is an inadequate amount of ACTH, this may lead to a deficiency in the hormones created by the adrenal glands, regardless of the adrenal glands still being at their optimal health. This condition is known as secondary adrenal insufficiency.

Secondary adrenal insufficiency occurs more commonly as a result of the sudden discontinued use of corticosteroids for certain chronic conditions, some of which include arthritis and asthma.   

Addisonian crisis

As previously mentioned, this condition is often the result of Addison’s disease that is left untreated and can be provoked by infection, illness or physical stress such as an accident or injury.

This condition is a combination of symptoms that indicate the presence of severe adrenal insufficiency as a result of the low levels of adrenal hormones, cortisol being the main one.

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Dehydration from severe vomiting
  • Confusion leading to loss of consciousness or coma
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Flank or abdominal pain
  • Slow and sluggish movement
  • Excessive and unusual sweating on palms or face
  • Rapid breathing (respiratory rate)
  • Organ failure (including the kidneys if blood is not able to be restored quickly)
  • Hyponatremia (low sodium) or hyperkalaemia (high potassium)
PREVIOUS What causes Addison’s disease?
NEXT What are the main adrenal hormones and why are they important?