Definition

The adrenal glands make a hormone called cortisol. It helps the body with blood pressure, metabolism, and the immune system. The body does not make enough of this hormone if you have adrenal crisis. Death may happen if you do not get care right away.

Adrenal Glands
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Pituitary Gland
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Causes

Causes are:

  • Stopping corticosteroid medicine too quickly
  • Sepsis—severe illness caused by an infection in the blood
  • Stress from surgery
  • Major sickness, such as a heart attack
  • Harm to the adrenal glands or surgery to remove them
  • Damage to the pituitary gland (controls the adrenal gland)
  • Therapy to replace the thyroid hormone

Risk Factors

Factors that may raise your chance of this are:

Symptoms

You may have:

  • Weakness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lack of hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Belly pain
  • High or low body temperature
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. If the doctor suspects an adrenal crisis, blood tests will be done.

Pictures may be taken. This can be done with MRI or CT scans.

Treatment

Adrenal crisis is serious. It can result in death. You will need care right away.

Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. You may need:

Fluids

Almost all people with adrenal crisis are low on body fluid. Large amount of fluids will be needed.

Medications

Medicines can help replace the missing hormones. This can ease health problems.

Prevention

To lower your chance of an adrenal crisis:

  • If you take chronic oral corticosteroids, learn how to raise your dose if you become ill. Do not stop these medicines without talking to your doctor.
  • If you have adrenal gland problems and become ill, seek medical care right away.
  • If you have adrenal gland problems, make sure you have a steroid injection with you at all times. Ensure that you and those around you know how to give the injection.
  • If you have adrenal insufficiency, carry a medical ID card. Wear a bracelet that tells emergency workers about your problem.

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