Endocrine System Home > Addisonian Crisis

Addisonian crisis, also known as acute adrenal insufficiency, occurs in both men and women of all age groups. Adrenal insufficiency is a medical condition in which the adrenal glands stop making hormones that are important for certain bodily functions. Because adrenal insufficiency symptoms usually progress slowly, they are usually ignored until a stressful event like an illness causes them to become life-threatening, in which the condition is called a crisis.

What Is an Addisonian Crisis?

Adrenal insufficiency is a medical condition in which the adrenal glands stop making hormones important for certain bodily functions. Adrenal insufficiency occurs in all age groups and afflicts men and women equally. There are two main types of adrenal insufficiency:
 
Because adrenal insufficiency symptoms usually progress slowly, they are usually ignored until a stressful event like an illness or an accident causes them to become overwhelming and life threatening. This is called an addisonian crisis, or acute adrenal insufficiency.
 
An addisonian crisis rarely happens in those people with secondary adrenal insufficiency.
 

Symptoms

In most cases of adrenal insufficiency, symptoms are severe enough that patients seek medical treatment before an addisonian crisis occurs. However, in about 25 percent of patients, adrenal insufficiency symptoms first appear during an addisonian crisis.
 
Addisonian crisis symptoms include:
 
  • Sudden penetrating pain in the lower back, abdomen, or legs
  • Severe vomiting and diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness.
     
If left untreated, this type of crisis can be fatal.
 
(Click Addisonian Crisis Symptoms for more information.)
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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