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Adrenal Insufficiency & Addison’s Disease

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Definition & Facts

Adrenal insufficiency, including Addison’s disease, is a disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands don’t make enough of certain hormones. These include cortisol, sometimes called the “stress hormone,” which is essential for life.

Illustration of Male kidney

Symptoms & Causes

The most common symptoms are fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, and abdominal pain. Adrenal insufficiency can be caused by autoimmune disease or suddenly stopping steroid medicines used to treat other conditions, among other causes.


Doctors diagnose adrenal insufficiency with blood tests. Other tests, such as computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), help find the cause of this disorder.


Doctors treat adrenal insufficiency with medicines that replace the hormones your body isn’t making. Your doctor will adjust your dose in special situations, such as during surgery, illness, or pregnancy; or after a serious injury.

Eating, Diet, & Nutrition

Some people with adrenal insufficiency may need a high-sodium diet. People who take medicines to replace cortisol also need plenty of calcium and vitamin D. A health care professional or dietitian can tell you how much you should have.

Clinical Trials

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.

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Last Reviewed September 2018

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Constantine Stratakis, M.D., D.Med. Sci., Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, NIH