Addison's disease, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency, is a rare condition that affects the body's hormonal activity. It is estimated that Addison's disease affects about 4 out of every 100,000 individuals, appearing in all age groups and affecting both genders equally. This disease is named after Dr. Thomas Addison, who discovered it in 1849.
Addison's disease occurs when the body's adrenal glands are not able to make enough of the hormones cortisol or aldosterone. Each hormone works differently and plays important roles in the human body.
Cortisol helps the body respond to stress. It also helps maintain blood pressure and blood sugar; slow the immune system's inflammatory response; and regulate the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Aldosterone is involved in keeping adequate blood pressure and water and salt balance in the body.
The disease usually presents slowly, worsening over time, and is often diagnosed during an incident of trauma or stress.