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Addison's disease is a non-discriminatory disorder that effects about 1 in every 100,000 people. Symptoms of this disease can resemble many other illnesses, so it is even more imperative that thorough testing be done to check for this and similar diseases.

Characteristics of this disease can include fatigue, muscle weakness, weight loss, low blood pressure, and darkening of the skin. The disease is caused by the failure of the adrenal glands to produce enough Cortisol, a hormone that is vital to helping the body cope with stress and up to hundreds of other functions of the body. Some of the other things Cortisol helps are:

-maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function
-slow the immune system's inflammatory response
-balance the effects of insulin in breaking down sugar for energy
-regulate the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats

Failure to produce enough Cortisol can occur for different reasons. The most common occurrence is due to the gradual deterioration of the adrenaline gland or because of auto-immune disorders. This is where the body makes antibodies that cause the body to attack and destroy itself. Less common causes can be chronic infections, fungal infections, or surgical removal of the glands.

Treating this disorder is not impossible. Similar to treating thyroid disease, replacing the hormone with a pill once or twice a day is usually sufficient. Increasing salt intake can also help the adrenal system. If left untreated however, the problem can become life threatening. Low blood pressure, low blood sugar, and too much potassium can kill a person.

If you fear that you may have this disorder, or that someone you know may, please talk to them about getting tested by their doctor. Blood tests, x-rays, or hypoglycemic tests can easily reveal a problem with the adrenaline glands. Don¡¦t take a chance.