Autoimmune Adrenal Insufficiency
Cortisol belongs to a class of hormones called glucocorticoids, which affect almost every organ and tissue in the body. Scientists think that cortisol has possibly hundreds of effects in the body. Its most important job is to help the body respond to stress. Among its other vital tasks, cortisol helps:
- Maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function
- Balance the effects of insulin in breaking down sugar for energy
- Regulate the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
- Slow the immune system's inflammatory response
- Maintain proper arousal and sense of well-being.
Because cortisol is so vital to health, the amount produced by the adrenals is precisely balanced.
Addison's disease symptoms usually begin gradually. Common symptoms include:
- Chronic fatigue that progressively worsens
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Low blood pressure that falls further when standing, causing dizziness or fainting
- Skin changes with areas of hyperpigmentation, or dark tanning, covering exposed and nonexposed parts of the body. This darkening of the skin is most visible on scars, skin folds, pressure points (such as the elbows, knees, knuckles, and toes), lips, and mucous membranes.