Conditions + Treatments

Addison's Disease in Children

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I have this great privilege of being able to restore many of my patients to normal functioning and see them feel better the day after they start medication.

David Breault, MD, PhD, Boston Children's Hospital endocrinologist

If your child has Addison’s disease, it means her adrenal glands aren’t functioning properly, causing a hormonal disorder. While it can be serious, there are good treatments. Here’s what you need to know about this rare condition: 

Addison’s disease occurs when there is the body produces too little:  

  • cortisol, a steroid hormone that helps regulate the body's use of nutrients, maintain blood glucose levels, support blood pressure, suppressinflammatory reactions in the body, and affect immune system functions
  • aldosterone, a steroid hormone that controls sodium and potassium in the blood 

Here are some other basic facts about Addison’s: 

  • Addison’s disease affects the body’s ability to respond to physical stress.
  • While it’s considered to be a rare disease, at least 8,000 Americans have the condition.
  • It can affect children of any age.
  • Addison’s disease can be caused by a number of things, including autoimmune disease, infections, an X-linked trait blood loss and cancer.
  • If it’s untreated, Addison's disease can cause severe abdominal pain, weakness, low blood pressure, kidney failure and shock.

How Children’s Hospital Boston approaches Addison’s disease

Here at Children’s, Addison’s disease is treated in our General Endocrinology Program, a multidisciplinary program that provides comprehensive diagnosis, treatment and management for patients with disorders of the adrenal gland and other parts of the body associated with the endocrine system.

Our approaches to treating Addison’s disease are both patient-focused and family-centered. We never lose sight of the fact that your child is, first and foremost, an individual—not merely a patient—and we include your family at every stage of the treatment process. 

A family's gratitude

Read one family's letter of thanks for the care provided by Virginia Rich, a nurse in Children's Endocrinology Program.

Addison's disease: Reviewed by David Breault, MD, endocrinologist
© Children’s Hospital Boston, 2011

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