Causes of Addison's Disease
If you or someone you love has Addison's disease, you may have questions about what causes it. While there is only one cause -- the destruction of the adrenal cortex -- there are many reasons for this to occur. For example, it could occur as a result of chronic infections, tuberculosis, surgical removal of the adrenal glands, or other factors.
What Causes Addison's Disease?Addison's disease is caused by the destruction of the adrenal cortex. This destruction can occur for a number of reasons.
In about 70 percent of Addison's disease cases, the destruction of the adrenal cortex is caused by the body's own immune system (autoimmune disease). Normally, the immune system protects the body against infection and disease. In an autoimmune disease, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks some part of the body.
In Addison's disease, the immune system attacks the adrenal cortex. Why the immune system attacks the adrenal cortex is unknown.
Other conditions that can attack the adrenal cortex and cause Addison's disease include:
- Chronic infections (mainly fungal infections)
- Cancer cells spreading from other parts of the body to the adrenal glands (especially breast cancer)
- Surgical removal of the adrenal glands.
As a results of the adrenal cortex being destroyed, in most cases, both cortisol and aldosterone hormones are lacking. Addison's disease symptoms usually begin when at least 90 percent of the adrenal cortex has been destroyed.