Addison’s disease is a chronic, but rare, disorder of the endocrine system. In a person suffering from Addison’s disease, their adrenal glands do not produce enough steroid hormones. General symptoms include abdominal pain and weakness, but can progress to Addisonian crisis, which may include low blood pressure and coma.
Addison’s disease was named after Scottish doctor Thomas Addison, who first described the disease in 1849. President John F. Kennedy is a notable case of a person having Addison’s disease, although the condition was kept secret during his presidency. Symptoms begin gradually and generally include fatigue, lightheadedness, muscle weakness, weight loss, and joint and muscle pains, among others.
The causes of Addison’s disease are genetic. Treatment involves cortisol replacement, often through prednisone tablets. Treatment is a lifelong process. It has been estimated that as few as 1 in 100,000 people are diagnosed with Addison’s disease, generally afflicting adults between the ages of 30 and 50.
With proper medication and treatment, individuals can expect to live normal lifespans. However, those suffering from Addison’s disease are advised to carry identification stating the condition in case of an emergency. Many people also need to carry a portable syringe with some injectable form of cortisol in case of emergencies.