The adrenal gland, located above the kidneys, is part of the endocrine system and is responsible for hormone production. The two triangular shaped adrenal glands are affected in a condition known as Addison’s disease. Each of the adrenal glands is divided into an outer adrenal cortex and an inner adrenal medulla. The cortex and medulla of the adrenal gland secrete different hormones. The inner part of the adrenal (medulla) produces epinephrine also called adrenaline, which is produced at times of stress, and helps the body respond to “fight” and “flight” situations. The lack of epinephrine production in the medulla is not a contributing factor in Addison’s disease. The inner portion of the adrenal (cortex) is more critical. The adrenal cortex makes two important steroid hormones, cortisol and aldosterone. Addison’s Disease (adrenal fatigue) is a severe or total deficiency of hormones made in the adrenal cortex. Cortisol metabolizes nutrients, stimulates the liver to raise the blood sugar, and modifies the body’s ability to respond to inflammation. Aldosterone controls salt water levels, which affect the blood volume and blood pressure.
These glands have an impact on mental state. People with Addison’s disease become less tolerant and they get easily frustrated. Adrenal fatigue can lead toward increased fears, anxiety, and depression. If a person is consistently under stress the adrenal glands can be compromised. The most common cause of Addison’s disease results from an autoimmune reaction in which the body’s immune system erroneously makes antibodies against cells of the adrenal cortex and eventually destroys them. Some of the less common causes include certain fungal infections and cancer cells that have spread from other parts of the body, usually the breast. Addison’s disease is a rare disorder that has been linked to tuberculosis.
Addison’s disease is treated by steroid replacement therapy. For proper maintenance, regular visits to a physician are required to run tests and examinations. There are no specific physical or occupational restrictions. As long as administered dose replacement medications are taken everyday, a person suffering from Addison’s disease can have normal life expectancy.