Saturday, December 31, 2016

How Can I Tell If I Have Addison's Disease?

A woman asked this question, "How do you go about finding out if you have Addisons disease? Should I go see an endocrinologist? I have many of the symptoms but the only thing that has popped up on my blood work was high potassium. My blood pressure has always been low so that isn't alarming to my dr. Thank you for advice."

Here is information on tests for Addison's Disease.

The thing to remember is that you are not considered to have Addison's Disease until 90 percent of your adrenal cortex (outer part of your adrenal glands) has been destroyed. Exhausting your body takes time. You may suddenly reach a noticeable crisis point, but getting to that point has probably taken years.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of adrenal exhaustion, you should check with your doctor. Endocrinologists are the type of doctors who specialize in endocrine system problems. The adrenal glands are a part of the endocrine system, so he would be a good doctor to go to. Try and see if he has any experience with adrenal problems. Most of them are swamped with trying to help diabetics (the pancreas is also part of the endocrine system), so make sure he (or she) has the time to help you work things out.

If he does not find any other reason for your problems, I would ask him to give the tests to check your level of adrenal function. If it does not say that you officially have Addison's Disease, but you still have many of the symptoms, I would start trying to do the things that can help improve your adrenal function, such as good diet, good relationships, plenty of rest and relaxation, moderate exercise, and avoiding all possible stress. (see my articles on Adrenal Recovery) If you take care of your self now, you might avoid ever getting to the point of adrenal exhaustion which we call Addison's Disease.

Keep an health journal of how you are feeling, when, and what happened (I just had an argument etc.).  With effort and prayer, your health can improve.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Can Low Adrenal Cause Muscle and Joint Pain?

A woman wrote in and said that her 30 year old daughter who has Addison's Disease is having severe joint pain. She asks, "Are there any rare Autoimmune Diseases that causes joint pain?" There might be. You might want to ask your doctor. I am just a person who has had her adrenal glands fail, and I know that low adrenal function can cause a LOT of join pain. I felt like crying. It hurt so bad. I could barely move, stand up, or even bend my fingers. It was miserable! This happened when I was experiencing severe low adrenal symptoms. I usually had to have complete rest, make sure I had good nutrition (no chemicals in my food or water), and "veg" (watch comedy videos, watch the birds, i.e. very low stress). It also meant that I was excessively stressed and needed to temporarily increase my hydrocortisone medication (only do under your doctor's instruction by a small amount such as 5mg  a day). The extra cortisone helped to lessen the inflammation and thus cut down on the pain.  After a few weeks I would feel better.

The symptoms of low Adrenal function are many. Exhaustion affects all parts of your body. Here are some of the affects of low adrenal function.
(In the list of symptoms, look under "Muscle")

joint and muscle pain and aches caused by inflammation
Instability of joints leading to pain - low back pain, knee pain, feet and ankles, calves

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Addison's Suport Group

I have been asked about a Support Group for people with Addison's Disease. This is a very helpful Self-help group with practical, experience based answers. They also have wonderful articles on their site. I have used their information as my guide book. Here is the link.

Dr. Thomas Addison was the doctor in 19 century England who discovered the disease we now call Addison's disease. There has been a lot of support in the UK for many years.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Making it Through the Tough Times

A friend of mine has a husband with a fatal illness and who is in a great deal of pain. They are both struggling with the situation. Though I wish I could relieve their suffering, all I can do in share my experiences in those years when I didn't know that my adrenal glands were failing, or when I collapsed after a major stress in my life and needed to recover. Here are my comments.

I know you are under tremendous stress. It doesn't sound like you can do much for your husband, but just having you there makes it easier for him. It doesn't sound like he is really the person you knew, which is hard. I have known a lot of pain, not being able to sleep well, and lived with knowing I had a condition that could take my life at any time. It is a heavy load. I know I wasn't the cheerful, balanced person I wanted to be. I was shaky, frightened, confused, exhausted, irrational, emotional, and struggled to just keep going each day. I appreciated my husband's support even though I was rough to live with. He was often gone and I think that helped him to be able to handle my illness better when he was home. I knew he needed to get away from me, or I would drag him down with me. Other friends and family gave me support also. I don't think one person can keep giving all the support that is needed day after day, year after year. Does your husband have friends, church members, your children, or family who visit and call him? Being around supportive people helped to divert my mind from my pain and problems and helped me be more upbeat. Visits were also tiring, so they had to be short. Phone visits didn't tire me as much.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Coping with Cramps and Low Blood Pressure

A person writes in, "I have had Addisons Disease for 18 years and my salt intake is very important. There are days that's all I crave is salt. I take 1 mg of Fludrocortisone and 20 mg of Hydrocortisone in the morning and 10 mg in the afternoon. One thing I hate is cramping in the legs and feet. Also, I hate the bladder hurting all the time. I need an answer to that. Because sometimes I feel like the only one that has this disease in Wyoming. Doctors sometimes don't know what to do about it. They freak out on my blood pressure and my heart rate because they are so low. Could my bladder hurt due to my meds."

I don't know how low your blood pressure is, but I do know that normal blood pressure should be around 120/80 and low blood pressure symptoms normally start at about 90/60. When my blood pressure dropped and I had muscle cramping, I knew that I something was seriously the matter. It could be:

  • That I was dehydrated and needed to drink more water and take more salt (When you take Fludrocortisone you need to add more salt to your diet. Those with Addison's are advised not to restrict salt intake and to add salt until you feel satisfied. When I got my Fludrocortisone dose right for me, I didn't crave salt much. ) 
  • Perhaps I needed to exercise to get the blood circulation going. (poor circulation causes cramping) 
  • Perhaps I was doing more exercise than my body was accustomed to, or had the medication, or minerals to support. 
  • I might be low in potassium, calcium or in magnesium. Having my mineral levels checked might be necessary. I might need mineral supplements. (Be careful. People with low Adrenal Function might have high potassium. Perhaps my minerals are not in the right balance.) 
  • Thyroid problems can cause muscle cramping. Maybe my thyroid needs to be checked. 
  • Do I need to rest? I would get muscle and bladder pain when I was becoming exhausted. When I rested for a while, they went away. 
  • Does my Fludrocourt medication need to be adjusted? Too much Fludrocourt can cause high blood pressure. Too low of Fludrocourt dose can cause low blood pressure.

Remember that if your blood pressure gets too low you can go into an Adrenal Crisis which can be very serious, so you will want to talk to your doctor about the problems you are having. You are on the normal dose for both your Fludrocortisone and Hydrocortisone, but the dose sometimes needs to be adjusted for different people and in times of stress.

I wish you well. Keep a health journal and make notes of how you are feeling, at what time, and the situation and take it with you to talk to your doctor. If your doctor does not have much experience in treating endocrine disorders, you may want to find one who has that experience. Don't give up! It takes time and patience, but you can feel better.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

If my Thyroid is low, could I also have low Adrenal?

"I am a 75 year old female trying to understand my symptoms: I wake aching all over body, not feeling awake and unable to function physically or mentally until much later in the day. I do not feel "normal" until evening, and feel my best about 9 or 10 pm. I have gained 10 lbs in less than 4 months. I am not able to cope with stress as well as about 2 years ago. I feel extreme fatigue and an warm to hot when I wake up and don't cool down until much later in the day. I do have low thyroid and take Levothyroxin. Could I have adrenal issues?"

Since each part of the Endocrine system affects the other, it is possible that you might have lowered Adrenal Function if you have low thyroid function. In fact, it is likely. All my endocrine system functioned at a low level. When tested, I always had a bit low production of thyroid hormones, and I always had trouble with keeping my blood sugar balanced. Nothing was to the point where I needed medication, but low enough to make me have blood sugar ups and downs (pancreatic hormones), and make me feel more cold and tired (thyroid hormones). Also the adrenal glands, a long with most parts of us, don't work as well when we are older. Many of our commonly accepted aging symptoms are actually our bodies slowing down, especially our adrenal glands.

The very slow start in the mornings and getting more and more alert and "normal" by evening is a common symptom of low adrenal function, as is the inability to cope with stress (sometimes all I could do was stare or cry).  Low adrenal function can also affect your body temperature.

Both the thyroid glands and the adrenal glands affect body temperature, fatigue, joint and muscle aches, depression, and weight gain. Your thyroid medication might also affect your body temperature. Low thyroid (or any problem with your body not functioning well) will stress your adrenal glands.

You will want to discuss your problems with your doctor. He can test both your thyroid and your adrenal hormone levels.  It is possible that you may just be experiencing low thyroid, or you may also have some low adrenal symptoms, or you may need to have your thyroid medicine adjusted. Remember that as you get your thyroid in good control, your adrenal glands should also improve.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Dealing with Difficulty Eating

A woman asks "Do you know anything about dealing with lack of hunger from stress? I know that especially with Addison's if I get stressed to the point of anxiety, I can't eat, and if I can't eat, it increases my stress, and it becomes a big endless cycle."

I wasn't diagnosed with Addison's when I was young. Though Dr Addison discovered the disease in 1849, testing and treatment for Addison's Disease was rarely done until the later 1990's, I was always tired and felt ill as a child, but since I never had a dramatic Addison's Crisis, nothing was ever done. My family does have a history of various auto-immune diseases and high stress, but it wasn't until I was older and had collapsed, that I began medication for Addison's Disease.

All of my life I have dealt with nausea that is a symptom of being over-stressed. I can confirm that not only does not eating increase stress, it can sure make you sick. When you don't have the vitamins and minerals your body needs to respond to the stresses it has to cope with, you do begin a downward cycle. It will also make you far more vulnerable to stress in the future. You will feel more and more ill until you finally collapse in exhaustion.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Will the dark patches go away?

A woman wants to know if the darker patches of skin color will go away. One of the early symptoms of Addison's Disease is darkening of skin especially on your face and in skin folds. Hyperpigmentation should go away when you take enough cortisone so that your body is not producing excessive amount of ATCH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone) in an effort to stimulate the adrenal glands.

I could always tell when I needed to take more medication because my face would turn a deep rose color. When I got my medicine up to an adequate level, the rosiness would go away. I am not as pale as I used to be when I was younger, but my skin is pretty normal now.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tests for Low Adrenal Function

Here are some good sites that tell about the tests available to help diagnose low adrenal function. I had a blood test which showed that my body produced "no detectable level of cortisone".  My doctor also listen to my symptoms and we decided to try a test of my taking a small amount of hydrocortisone. Nothing else had made any difference in how I felt, but in desperation, I decided to give it a try. Since I immediately felt considerably better, it seemed likely that my adrenal glands were not producing enough cortisone. We checked.  I had a blood test which showed that my body produced "no detectable level of cortisone". It was conclusive, I had Addison's disease.

One of the best places for information on Addison's Disease can be found at the UK Addison's Disease Self Help Group

I also have found Dr. Wilson's work very helpful

Monday, July 25, 2016

Will traveling with Addison's Disease make you tired?

A woman, who has had Addison's for 7 years, told me, " I love to travel but now I'm just traveling 2-4 hours away to see family and friends or for conferences. I am often exhausted after these trips...especially the professional ones. I don't feel tired or like I'm pushing myself during the trips but when I get home I end up sleeping most of the day for a day or two."

Remember that your adrenal glands help you deal with change by adjusting such things as blood pressure, blood sugar, metabolism, and temperature. Even with medication, a person with Addison's disease will not function as well as a person has normal adrenal glands.

Imagine a person with diabetics. Now think of them eating a large piece of cake. What will happen? They will become very ill! Why? Because they did not have the insulin they needed for the amount of sugar they ate.

How do you deal with being completely dependent on medication to live?

A woman shared this, " the greatest challenge has not been in physically, but in mentally accepting the realization that I am dependent on a medication, without which I would die. I have a strong faith and spiritual support system, but would still welcome any comfort or wisdom you might have to share regarding the panic and negative thoughts that can feel overwhelming at times."

I agree that it is hard to accept that you will die if you don't have your cortisone. At times, I was afraid. Faith and prayer help to keep me going and comfort me when I felt I was being overcome by fear.

Here are a few things I did to help me cope:

Is Addison's Disease a Genetic Disease?

A woman told me that her boyfriend was told that Addison's Disease is a genetic disease and he would have it all his life.

Maybe and maybe not. The adrenal glands can become damaged in many ways -- hemorrhage from a car accident, cancer, tumors, tuberculous, HIV, virus damage, other diseases, genetically weak adrenal glands, high doses of cortisone used to treat other conditions, failure of the Pituitary glad to produce the hormone necessary to stimulates your adrenal glands to function, your immune system attacking your adrenal glands, and excessive prolonged stress of any type. (see  )

Whether or not your adrenal glands heal, removing as much stress from your life as possible will help you feel better. It will also probably help your body cope better with your disease, decrease the possibility of other complications, and increase your quality of life.

In my case, I seem to have had a lot of stress caused by low oxygen levels (chronic bronchitis and a heart murmur), several injuries, allergies, chemical sensitivities, and unresolved emotional issues. As I worked to control or reduce each problem, my adrenal glands began to heal. My adrenal glands did not produce any cortisone for years and now I able to function without any medication at all.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Is it safe to take cortisone?

A woman wrote in about her boyfriend who has just been diagnosed with Addison's Disease, "I have read many online materials saying people with the condition can live normally with help of medication. But he doesn't wanna take any hormone pills because he thinks steroids are not good and that treatments are not gonna help ."

Yes, people with Addison's Disease can live a fairly normal life if they take medication. It is like being a diabetic. I wouldn't say a diabetic lives a "normal" life, but people who have health problems can live a good life if they are careful about exercise, diet, rest, and stress.

Taking steroids are not a good idea for most people and neither is taking insulin or any other unnecessary hormone or drug.  If your body is producing insulin, then taking additional insulin in pill or shot form will give you an over dose. The same with steroids. The adrenal glands produce cortisone, a steroid which we all need to regulate our body's metabolism. If your pancreas does does not produce enough insulin to control the sugar levels in our blood, then people are given insulin to replace that they should be producing. It is not an over dose. If your adrenal glands do not produce cortisone, then you need to take replacement cortisone.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Can adrenal medication cause me to gain weight?

A person wrote in and said, "My meds need some changing, I've gained 15 pounds in one year, and I'm pretty sure it's my florreneff." It is possible that too much fludocortisone could cause you to gain weight, but it is more likely that an overdose of cortisone (hydrocortisone) will cause weight gain.

Fludocortisone mainly controls your mineral levels and therefore your water retention and blood pressure. You would see a big change in your weight during the day if your fludocortisone is too high. Your weight would be lower first thing in the morning when your medicine levels in your blood stream are low. You weight will be higher in the evening if your dose of fludocortisone is too high because you are retaining water (assuming you are taking your fludocortisone in the mornings as most people do). I varied ten pounds a day and my feet were puffy when I was taking too much fludocortisone.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I'm back!

I'm sorry that I haven't responded to everyone's post the last few months some very exciting things have been happening in my life.

Last summer I told you about my adrenal glands healing and of being able to completely go off of Hydrocortisone. As fall progressed, I became more and more tired. In February, we have what is called inversion. I call it smog! I was having a lot of trouble breathing and was so exhausted that I could barely more. The doctors had tried all they knew, and I was still ill. I prayed and felt impressed to go to an area a few hours south of our home.  Immediately I started feeling better.

We bought a home there, leaving the area we have lived in for 40 years. It has been a major change and a good one. I haven't felt so well in years! It turns out that I have chronic bronchitis and a heart murmur which were causing major stress on my body as I struggled to get the oxygen I needed. This stress, combined with other stresses caused my adrenal glands to fail 14 years ago. Now that I am at a lower altitude with clean, dry air, I am getting enough oxygen and am feeling good.

Don't give up! Keep looking for the things which are causing stress in your life and try to eliminate them.

I am so grateful for the Lord's help in discovering this major stress in my life. I will be responding to your questions as soon as I can.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Crisis Recovery

A man wrote to me who was just put in the hospital with an adrenal crisis. He was on a high stress dose of both hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone and was having trouble with water retention. This is my response.

My experience is that adrenal healing and stabilization requires a lot of time and patience. I had to just relax much of the time and try and get all the rest I could. Eating plenty of nutritious food without chemicals and drinking filtered water also helped. It still took me months to stabilize and not have all the ups and downs. It also took considerable time for my mineral levels (hydration) to become level (fludrocortisone helps to control). Even after 13 years of treatment, I always got heavier by a few pounds by evening and was several pounds less every morning. I think that replacing adrenal hormones with hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone keeps you going, but is no where near as smooth and level as normal functioning adrenal glands would be. You should be able to drop your dose soon. Your doctor can test your cortisone levels and help you determine when to start cutting. Remember that changes in cortisone medication must be done VERY slowly or you'll end up with another adrenal crisis -- an experience you don't want to repeat!