Pediatric Addison’s Disease

Pediatric Addison’s Disease



Addison’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands don’t produce enough of certain hormones.

Expanded overview

Addison’s disease is a condition where the adrenal glands (located above the kidneys) don’t produce proper hormone levels. With this condition, the adrenal glands usually produce too little cortisol (the “stress hormone” that helps balance hormones) and sometimes too little aldosterone (hormone that regulates salt and water).


Addison’s disease is caused by damaged adrenal glands, which can occur due to the following:

  • Autoimmune disease (when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body)
  • Bleeding into the adrenal glands
  • Infections of the adrenal glands
  • Spread of cancer to the adrenal glands
  • Tuberculosis 


Signs and symptoms of Addison’s disease include:

  • Craving salt or salty foods
  • Decreased appetite
  • Depression
  • Extreme fatigue (tiredness)
  • Fainting
  • Hyperkalemia (high potassium)
  • Hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin)
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Hyponatremia (low sodium)
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Irritability
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting
  • Pain in the abdomen, lower back or legs
  • Weight loss

Test and Diagnosis

  • Testing for Addison’s disease may require a blood test that measures cortisol and adrenocorticotropic (ACTH) levels.
  • Depending on the results, the next step is often ACTH stimulation, in which your child will be given a man-made form of ACTH with blood levels taken both before and after administration.
  • A CT scan may be used to look for any tumors or other abnormal growths on the glands.


  • Replacement of cortisol and/or aldosterone is the preferred treatment for Addison’s disease.
  • Your child may also need to add salt to his/her diet.

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