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There are many ways you can help children and their families get the care they need.
Addison's disease is the result of the adrenal gland(s) producing too little:
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, and the onset of the disease may occur at any age.
How does inadequate corticosteroid production affect my child?
Corticosteroids play an important role in helping the body fight infection and promote health during physical stress.
The lack of adrenal hormones may cause:
Did you know?
The Endocrinology Program at Boston Children's Hospital has been ranked among top pediatric hospitals by U.S. News & World Report.
What causes Addison’s disease?
Addison’s disease is most often caused by the destruction of the adrenal gland due to an autoimmune response. Some cases are caused by the destruction of the adrenal glands through cancer, infection or other disease.
Other causes may include:
In rare cases, Addison's disease is inherited as an X-linked trait, meaning that the gene responsible for the condition is located on the X chromosome and passed down from a mother to her child. In this form, symptoms typically begin in childhood or adolescence.
What are the symptoms of Addison’s disease?
Symptoms of mild Addison's disease may only be apparent when your child is under physical stress. While each child may experience symptoms differently, some of the most common symptoms include:
If left untreated, Addison's disease may lead to:
The risk of developing these problems is especially high when a child is experiencing physical stress.
You and your family are key players in your child’s medical care. It’s important that you share your observations and ideas with your child’s health care provider and that you understand your provider’s recommendations.
If your child is exhibiting signs of Addison’s disease and you’ve set up an appointment, you probably already have some ideas and questions on your mind. But at the appointment, it can be easy to forget the questions you wanted to ask. It’s often helpful to jot them down ahead of time so that you can leave the appointment feeling like you have the information you need.
If your child is old enough, you may want to suggest that she write down what she wants to ask her health care provider, too.
Some of the questions you may want to ask include:
Q: What is Addison’s disease?
A: Addison's disease is the result of the adrenal gland(s) producing too little of certain hormones that regulate key processes in your child’s body. It also affects the body’s ability to respond to physical stress. Addison’s disease is considered to be a rare condition, and the onset can occur at any age.
Q: What causes Addison’s disease?
A: Addison’s disease is most often caused by the destruction of the adrenal gland due to an autoimmune response. Some cases are caused by the destruction of the adrenal glands through cancer, infection or other disease.
Q: How will my child’s doctor diagnose Addison’s disease?
A: Symptoms for Addison’s disease often come on slowly and may only be apparent when your child is under physical stress. Targeted blood tests will help your child’s doctor definitively diagnose whether or not your child has Addison’s disease.
Q: How is Addison’s disease treated?
A: The goal of treatment is to restore your child’s adrenal function by replacing essential hormones. These hormones may be taken orally or intravenously, depending on your child's condition. In most cases, your child must continue taking them for the rest of her life.
Q: How serious is Addison’s disease if left untreated?
A: If left untreated, Addison's disease may lead to severe abdominal pain, extreme weakness, low blood pressure, kidney failure and shock, especially when a child is experiencing physical stress.
A guide to the endocrine system
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