Canadian Addison Society

What is Addison's Disease

Addison's Disease is a rare hormonal disorder which affects approximately 1 to 2 per 100,000 people. It affects men and women alike and occurs in all age groups, including children.

Addison's disease is caused mainly by an autoimmune reaction of your body (formerly a large percentage of Addison’s disease was caused by tuberculosis), trauma with hemorrhage into the adrenals and surgery. Fungus infections as well as carcinoma can also be the cause.

Canadian Addison SocietyAddison's disease occurs when there is chronic primary adrenal insufficiency or when the adrenal glands, the small glands that are located above each kidney, cease to function properly, this is also referred to as hypoadrenalism.

Canadian Addison SocietyThe adrenal glands are made up of two parts; the inner part called the medulla, which regulates epinephrine commonly known as adrenaline, which is produced in times of stress. The inner part is usually not affected by Addison's Disease. The outer part, the more critical is the adrenal cortex and it produces many hormones, the two more important ones being cortisol and aldosterone. These hormones are necessary to sustain life.


  • belongs to a family of hormones called glucocorticoids
  • helps maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function
  • helps mobilize nutrients and modify the body's response to inflammation
  • helps balance the effects of insulin in breaking down sugar for energy
  • helps regulate the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats
  • helps the body to respond to stress


  • belongs to a family of hormones called mineralocorticoids
  • helps to maintain proper sodium (salt) and potassium balance

Symptoms of Addison's Disease

  • salt craving
  • weakness and fatigue
  • hyperpigmentation of skin and mucous membranes
  • weight loss
  • nausea, vomiting
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • low blood pressure
  • abdominal pain
  • lethargy
  • confusion
  • fainting, particularly on standing up
  • muscle complaints