Addison's Disease | Diagnosis & Treatment

How is Addison’s disease diagnosed?

Symptoms for Addison’s disease often come on slowly. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for Addison's disease may include:

  • laboratory blood tests to measure levels of corticosteroid hormone (cortisol) and the pituitary hormone ACTH, which regulates adrenal gland function
  • ACTH stimulation test to assess adrenal gland function
  • measurement of electrolytes in the blood

Based on the results of these tests, your child’s doctor will be able to definitively diagnose whether your child has Addison’s disease.

How is Addison's disease treated?

The goal of treatment is to restore your child's adrenal function by replacing essential hormones such as hydrocortisone. Sometimes, prednisone may be used in place of hydrocortisone. Hormones may be taken orally or intravenously, depending on your child's condition. In most cases, your child must continue taking them for life. In addition, your child may need to increase medication during times of physical stress, injury, infection or surgery.

Treatment may also include a synthetic form of aldosterone that helps restore the body's levels of sodium and potassium. Because Addison's disease is rare and isn't typically tested in an emergency situation, it's a good idea for your child to wear a Medic Alert bracelet that clearly communicates the condition to others.