With appropriate and ongoing treatment, most people with Addison’s disease can expect to lead active lives with a life expectancy similar to that of the general population.

Addison’s disease, or primary adrenal insufficiency, is a rare disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands, two small glands that sit atop the kidneys, stop producing enough cortisol or aldosterone.

It affects certain essential functions and how the body responds to stress.

Read on to learn more about the life expectancy for Addison’s disease.

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About 1 in 100,000 people develop Addison’s disease each year in the United States.

Living with Addison’s disease can be challenging, but with the right treatments, those living with the condition can lead a fulfilling life.

The two hormones deficient in Addison’s disease, cortisol and aldosterone, play crucial roles in many essential bodily functions.

Functions include:

• controlling blood pressure
• controlling blood sugar
• reducing inflammation
• controlling metabolism
Controls the sodium and potassium balance in the blood, which affects the salt and water balance in the body.

Treating Addison’s disease involves taking hormone medications. Doctors typically prescribe hydrocortisone to replace the cortisol and fludrocortisone to replace the aldosterone.

These are oral medications a person will take several times a day. During times of stress or illness, they may need a higher dose.

By remaining consistent with the medications, learning how to manage times of stress, and recognizing and treating an adrenal crisis, most people with Addison’s disease can engage in normal activities and enjoy an average lifespan.

However, it is important to acknowledge the potential for complications and the need for careful management.

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Learn more about Addison’s disease.

With the significant advances in medical treatment and hormone therapy, the outlook for a person with Addison’s disease is generally positive.

They do need to remain consistent with their medications and learn how to maintain stable hormone levels during times of sickness.

About 50% of people with Addison’s develop an autoimmune disorder, so healthcare professionals should monitor the conditions closely.

Pregnancy with Addison’s disease is also possible but requires extra monitoring.

Some people with Addison’s disease have ongoing times of fatigue that usually resolve with rest.

With diligent management and working closely with a healthcare professional, a person with Addison’s disease can limit the impact of the condition on their daily living.

While treatment can effectively manage Addison’s disease, there are possible complications that can arise.

An adrenal crisis is a life threatening emergency that can occur when the body is under stress, such as from an infection, injury, or surgery. Symptoms may include:

Adrenal crisis can cause life threatening conditions, such as:

People with Addison’s disease are also at higher risk of developing infections, and improper management of the condition can contribute to the development of chronic conditions due to the long-term use of corticosteroids.

Because of these potentially serious complications, experts recommend people with Addison’s disease teach family and friends about possible complications and emergency treatments.

It is also a good idea for them to wear a medical tag to alert medical responders.

Addison’s disease is generally a slow and gradual destruction of the adrenal gland, leading to a decrease in cortisol and aldosterone levels.

The speed of the progression can vary. However, once it advances to significantly low levels of the hormones, the following symptoms become noticeable:

Because the symptoms are vague and slow to progress, some people attribute them to other illnesses.

Support for individuals with Addison’s disease is important for managing the condition effectively. Support can include:

  • Medical support: Regular checkups with an endocrinologist are vital for monitoring and making necessary adjustments.
  • Support groups: An Addison’s disease support group can offer shared experiences, emotional support, and practical advice on living with the condition.
  • Nutritional guidance: Consulting with a registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance on managing the condition through nutrition.
  • Psychological support: Talking with a counselor or psychologist can help individuals cope with the emotional and psychological impact of living with Addison’s disease.
  • Family and friends: Family and friends can educate themselves on the condition to ensure a strong support system and the ability to recognize symptoms of potential adrenal crisis.
  • Online resources and information: Reputable sources and online forums can provide a platform to connect with others sharing similar experiences.

Does Addison’s disease get worse over time?

With proper management of hormone therapy, Addison’s disease typically remains stable and does not worsen over time.

The condition does require lifelong management, however, and there is the possibility of other conditions developing.

Are there stages of Addison’s disease?

There are no distinct stages of Addison’s disease. It typically has a gradual onset that people often mistake for other illnesses until the condition becomes more severe.

How painful is Addison’s disease?

Not everyone experiences pain with Addison’s disease and those who do have varying levels. The most common areas of pain are in the abdomen or joints.

Can you live a normal life with Addison’s disease?

With proper management and treatment, most people with Addison’s disease can live a typical and active life.

They need to take daily medications, make several lifestyle adjustments, and be on the watch for signs of adrenal crisis, but they can usually participate in regular activities.

With proper management, people with Addison’s disease can plan to live active lives and have a typical life expectancy with few limitations.

The condition occurs when the adrenal glands experience damage and stop producing the essential hormones, cortisol and aldosterone. Daily management includes taking hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone.

Some people with Addison’s disease develop autoimmune conditions, which can affect overall health. Therefore, it is important to have close, lifelong monitoring.

The main and most serious complication is adrenal crisis — a life threatening condition that can happen when the body is under physical stress, such as illness, injury, or surgery.

Family and friends need to receive education on Addison’s disease to watch for this complication. The person with Addison’s should also wear a medical bracelet identifying their condition.