Addison's disease or adrenal fatigue

Hi everyone,

I'm currently waiting for my synch test next Friday and then have an appointment on the 30th of October with a specialist. ( I had a blood test at 1 o'clock and my cortisol was 90 I then had another one at 8am and it was 309).

Does anyone know th difference between Addison's disease and adrenal fatigue?? and does anyone know how they diagnose adrenal fatigue? Any answers welcome just trying to get as much knowledge as possible as it looks like it's going to be atleast six weeks before I get any arnswer s.

Thank you

11 Replies

  • Addison's disease is completely different to adrenal fatigue, which most Endo's will dismiss. Addison's is life threatening, in that you do not produce enough cortisol in your body for some reason. We all need cortisol to live, if we don't get it we risk going into "crisis" where our BP drops, there can be D&V, if left untreated we can go into coma. Someone with Addison's needs to take replacement Hydrocortisone for the rest of their life. I'm assuming the 1o'clock cortisol was during the day rather than 1am? It's rather low, even 309 at 8am isn't a very high result. Wait until you have your test to see what that says, you'll get your results a lot quicker if there is a problem as they will possibly need to start you on Hydrocortisone.

  • Thanks Pauline. Yes my blood was taken in the afternoon and yes both low results. The reason I was looking in to this is because even though I'm being tested for addisons I don't have any of the symptoms other than fatigue but have a new born baby. Maybe they caught mine early. I thought from what I have read adrenal fatigue has very similar symptoms including a low cortisol reading. It's so thrustrating not knowing what's wrong and having to wait another six weeks.

  • And yes do you know how long the results take to come back? They have started me on medication although I'm reluctant to take it at this stage.

  • Adrenal fatigue is not recognised by the medical profession as a medical condition but rather by people who do alternative medicine. What medication have they suggested you take? If it is Hydrocortisone then they are certainly taking your low values very seriously & you need to take them. If you develop D&V, feel dizzy or confused then you need to go to A&E immediately - it is a medical emergency. Likewise if you have a sudden shock or accident then your cortisol levels will drop even further & needs immediate attention. I'm not sure how long the results take to come back but I don't think it's long at all.

  • Thanks Pauline. Yes it is hydrocortisconr I haven't but been taken them but will start tomorrow. I don't feel ill within myself but don't want to take the risk.

  • Hi Shells1212,

    Yes as PaulineS says, it is very important to take this medication daily. My brother was diagnosed with Addisons last year. He is well now thankfully.

    I got him a bracelet online with Addisons etched on it. It is advisable to wear one.

    Keep well.

    J x

  • Hi Shells 1212,

    It is true doctors do not recognise adrenal fatigue. However they do recognise adrenal insufficiency. Addison's disease is primary adrenal insufficiency when the adrenal glands themselves fail. However, the difficulty is if you have secondary adrenal insufficiency, which is caused by failure of the pituitary to produce sufficient ACTH to stimulate the adrenals to produce cortisol. The short synacthen test provides ACTH to the adrenals and all it shows is when your adrenals receive sufficient ACTH they will produce cortisol.

    The Pituitary Foundation has advised: Please note: for patients with symptoms that may suggest cortisol deficiency that a ‘pass’ on a Synacthen Stimulation Test may not always mean that cortisol deficiency is excluded, and that with persisting symptoms referral to an endocrinologist is recommended where testing may be carried out with alternatives such as the glucagon test or Insulin Stress Test. Choosing the correct test and then interpreting it correctly and considering alternatives is why endocrinology cannot be simply ‘a protocol’. No test is perfect and that consideration for further opinion is always an important option.

    Whether you have primary or secondary adrenal insufficiency the result is the same your life is dependent on taking hydrocortisone. Sounds daunting but the difficulty is getting the diagnosis if you have secondary adrenal insufficiency.

    Hope this helps, always good to look up protocols that should be followed for any endocrine tests you have.

  • Thank you so much for explaining this to me.

    It sound like it will be a long time yet before being dagnoised.

    Do you have secondary or primary.

    Thank you

  • Sorry for the delay replying, I have secondary adrenal insufficiency. My story to diagnosis can be seen Think you may not have to wait too long as they have already recognised you need hydrocortisone, it made all the difference to my life and hope it does the same for you.

  • I think they already think you have adrenal insufficiency as they have prescribed Hydro cortisone, which you do need to take. I have secondary adrenal insufficiency due to having a cortisol producing tumour removed form my pituitary gland, now I produce very little so need to take HC. if you are on Facebook there is a good support group called UK Addisons disease info & support group. Have a look at the Pituitary Foundation website & the Addisons support group But please take your hydrocortisone, you won't do yourself any harm taking it but you will if you don't! x

  • Addisons is an autoimmune disease. Adrenal fatigue is the result of the body's natural response to unrelieved stress (not recognised by NHS).

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