Stress is part of life, but what happens when the organ in the body responsible for stress response, blood pressure, and metabolism no longer functions properly? For individuals facing adrenal insufficiency, the ability to regulate these vital bodily functions can be greatly impaired. Small, triangular-shaped organs located directly above each kidney, the adrenal glands secrete both cortisol and aldosterone, as well as adrenaline, glucocorticoids, and mineralocorticoids. However, many factors can impair kidney function and cause adrenal insufficiency.
Considered to be the most common cause of primary adrenal insufficiency, autoimmune conditions cause the body’s immune system to attack healthy tissues, inadvertently causing damage. Addison's disease is the biggest culprit when it comes to autoimmune conditions causing adrenal insufficiency. Addison’s disease occurs when the immune system is incapable of differentiating healthy cells from invading foreign bodies and begins to attack and destroy cells in the adrenal glands. These glands may be incapable of producing the necessary amount of cortisol if the outer layer, known as the adrenal cortex, is significantly damaged.
While rare, a combination of concurrently occurring diseases may be the root cause of Addison’s disease. Specifically, autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome (APS) can lead to the development of Addison’s disease. APS is classified as type one or two, with type one beginning during childhood and type two developing in adulthood, typically between eighteen and thirty. Regardless of type, Addison’s disease can be a result of either type of these autoimmune diseases.