8 Things You Should Know About Addison’s Disease

adrenal-insufficiency

 

Cortisol gets a bad rap these days. (Guilty!) Yes, this hormone surges when you’re stressed. And yes, chronic stress is bad news for your health. But while too much cortisol can lead to all sorts of stress-related side effects, too little cortisol is equally debilitating.

Just ask someone with Addison’s disease. If you suffer from this condition, your adrenal glands fail to make adequate amounts of cortisol, says Betul Hatipoglu, MD, an endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic.

Cortisol plays a role in regulating your blood pressure, heart function, digestion, and a lot else, Hatipoglu explains. So if your adrenal glands poop out and your cortisol levels plummet, a lot can go wrong. (In as little as 30 days, you can be a whole lot slimmer, way more energetic, and so much healthier just by following the simple, groundbreaking plan in The Thyroid Cure!)

Here’s what you need to know about this condition—starting with its craziest symptom.

It can make your teeth appear whiter.

Hatipoglu once met with a patient who was suffering from fatigue, belly pain, and mild weight loss. “Her doctors thought she was depressed,” Hatipoglu recalls. Toward the end of their appointment, Hatipoglu noticed the woman’s teeth looked very white. She realized they looked white because the woman’s skin was tan. “I asked her if she’d been on vacation, and she said she hadn’t been in the sun, and that’s when I knew,” Hatipoglu says. Some Addison’s-related hormone shifts can make the skin appear darker, almost like a tan. “Addison’s is the only disease I know of that can cause darkening of the skin,” she says.

Its (other) symptoms are popular ones.

 Along with darker skin, other symptoms of Addison’s include nausea, mild-to-severe abdominal or bone pain, weight loss, a lack of energy, forgetfulness, and low blood pressure, Hatipoglu says. Of course, those same symptoms are linked to many other health issues, from thyroid disease to cancer. “It’s very easy to confuse with other disorders, so many people see a lot of doctors before finally receiving a proper diagnosis,” she says. (One exception: For young women who develop Addison’s disease, loss of body hair is a warning sign, Hatipoglu adds.)
It’s rare.
Doctors also miss or misinterpret the symptoms of Addison’s disease because it’s very uncommon. “I’m not sure if it’s quite one in a million, but it’s very rare,” Hatipoglu says. “It makes sense that many doctors don’t think of it when examining a patient with these symptoms.”
It’s often confused with adrenal insufficiency.

A lot of online resources mention Addison’s disease and adrenal insufficiency as though they were two names for the same condition. They’re not the same, Hatipoglu says. While a thyroid issue or some other hormone-related imbalance could mess with your adrenal function, Addison’s disease refers to an autoimmune disorder in which your body attacks and destroys your adrenal glands.

That destruction can happen quickly.

While it takes months or even years for some Addison’s sufferers to lose all hormone production in their adrenal glands, for others the disease can knock out those organs very rapidly—in a matter of days, Hatipoglu says. “That’s very uncommon,” she adds. But compared to other less-severe adrenal issues, the symptoms of Addison’s tend to present more dramatically, she explains. That means a sufferer is likely to experience several of the symptoms mentioned above, and those symptoms will continue to grow worse as time passes.

Anybody can get it.

Addison’s is not picky. It can strike at any age, regardless of your sex or ethnicity, Hatipoglu says. While there’s some evidence that genetics may play a role—if other people in your family have the disease or some other endocrine disorder, that may increase your risk—there’s really no way to predict who will develop the disease, she adds.

Screening for Addison’s is pretty simple.

If your doctor suspects Addison’s, he or she will conduct a blood test to check for your levels of cortisol and another hormone called ACTH. “Usually the results of that screening are very clear,” Hatipoglu says. If they’re not, some follow-up tests can determine for sure if you have the condition.

There are effective treatments.

Those treatments involve taking oral hormone supplements.  In extreme cases, if the patient’s body does not properly absorb those supplements, injections may be necessary, Hatipoglu explains. “But patients live a normal life,” she adds. “It’s a treatable disease, and the treatments are effective.”

From http://www.prevention.com/health/addisons-disease-symptoms

Metabolomic Biomarkers in Urine of Cushing’s Syndrome Patients

Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2017, 18(2), 294; doi:10.3390/ijms18020294 (registering DOI)
Department of Food Sciences, Faculty of Pharmacy, Medical University of Gdańsk, Al. Gen. J. Hallera 107, 80-416 Gdańsk, Poland
Laboratory of Environmental Chemometrics, Faculty of Chemistry, University of Gdańsk, ul. Wita Stwosza 63, 80-308 Gdańsk, Poland
Department of Endocrinology and Internal Medicine, Medical University of Gdańsk, ul. Dębinki 7, 80-211 Gdańsk, Poland
Department ofEnvironmental Analytics, Institute for Environmental and Human Health Protection, Faculty of Chemistry, University of Gdańsk, ul. Wita Stwosza 63, 80-308 Gdańsk, Poland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Ting-Li (Morgan) Han
Received: 5 December 2016 / Revised: 9 January 2017 / Accepted: 19 January 2017 / Published: 29 January 2017
(This article belongs to the Section Molecular Diagnostics)
Download PDF [1853 KB, uploaded 29 January 2017]

Abstract

Cushing’s syndrome (CS) is a disease which results from excessive levels of cortisol in the human body. The disorder is associated with various signs and symptoms which are also common for the general population not suffering from compound hypersecretion. Thus, more sensitive and selective methods are required for the diagnosis of CS.

This follow-up study was conducted to determine which steroid metabolites could serve as potential indicators of CS and possible subclinical hypercortisolism in patients diagnosed with so called non-functioning adrenal incidentalomas (AIs).

Urine samples from negative controls (n = 37), patients with CS characterized by hypercortisolism and excluding iatrogenic CS (n = 16), and patients with non-functioning AIs with possible subclinical Cushing’s syndrome (n = 25) were analyzed using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC/MS) and gas chromatograph equipped with flame ionization detector (GC/FID). Statistical and multivariate methods were applied to investigate the profile differences between examined individuals. The analyses revealed hormonal differences between patients with CS and the rest of examined individuals.

The concentrations of selected metabolites of cortisol, androgens, and pregnenetriol were elevated whereas the levels of tetrahydrocortisone were decreased for CS when opposed to the rest of the study population. Moreover, after analysis of potential confounding factors, it was also possible to distinguish six steroid hormones which discriminated CS patients from other study subjects.

The obtained discriminant functions enabled classification of CS patients and AI group characterized by mild hypersecretion of cortisol metabolites. It can be concluded that steroid hormones selected by applying urinary profiling may serve the role of potential biomarkers of CS and can aid in its early diagnosis.

 

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

Supplementary material

From http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/18/2/294

Cushing’s Syndrome Treatments

Medications, Surgery, and Other Treatments for Cushing’s Syndrome

Written by | Reviewed by Daniel J. Toft MD, PhD

Treatment for Cushing’s syndrome depends on what symptoms you’re experiencing as well as the cause of Cushing’s syndrome.

Cushing’s syndrome is caused by an over-exposure to the hormone cortisol. This excessive hormone exposure can come from a tumor that’s over-producing either cortisol or adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH—which stimulates the body to make cortisol). It can also come from taking too many corticosteroid medications over a long period of time; corticosteroids mimic the effect of cortisol in the body.

The goal of treatment is to address the over-exposure. This article walks you through the most common treatments for Cushing’s syndrome.

Gradually decreasing corticosteroid medications: If your doctor has identified that the cause of your Cushing’s syndrome is corticosteroid medications, you may be able to manage your Cushing’s syndrome symptoms by reducing the overall amount of corticosteroids you take.

It’s common for some people with certain health conditions—such as arthritis and asthma—to take corticosteroids to help them manage their symptoms. In these cases, your doctor can prescribe non-corticosteroid medications, which will allow you to reduce—or eliminate—your use of corticosteroids.

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t stop taking corticosteroid medications on your own—suddenly stopping these medications could lead to a drop in cortisol levels—and you need a healthy amount of cortisol. When cortisol levels get too low, it can cause a variety of symptoms, such as muscle weakness, fatigue, weight loss, and low blood pressure, which may be life-threatening.

Instead, your doctor will gradually reduce your dose of corticosteroids to allow your body to resume normal production of cortisol.

If for some reason you cannot stop taking corticosteroids, your doctor will monitor your condition very carefully, frequently checking to make sure your blood glucose levels as well as your bone mass levels are normal. Elevated blood glucose levels and low bone density are signs of Cushing’s syndrome.

Surgery to remove a tumor: If it’s a tumor causing Cushing’s syndrome, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the tumor. The 2 types of tumors that can cause Cushing’s are pituitary tumors (also called pituitary adenomas) and adrenal tumors. However, other tumors in the body (eg, in the lungs or pancreas) can cause Cushing’s syndrome, too.

Pituitary adenomas are benign (non-cancerous), and most adrenal tumors are as well. However, in rare cases, adrenal tumors can be malignant (cancerous). These tumors are called adrenocortical carcinomas, and it’s important to treat them right away.

Surgery for removing a pituitary tumor is a delicate process. It’s typically performed through the nostril, and your surgeon will use tiny specialized tools. The success, or cure, rate of this procedure is more than 80% when performed by a surgeon with extensive experience. If surgery fails or only produces a temporary cure, surgery can be repeated, often with good results.

If you have surgery to remove an adrenal tumor or tumor in your lungs or pancreas, your surgeon will typically remove it through a standard open surgery (through an incision in your stomach or back) or minimally invasive surgery in which small incisions are made and tiny tools are used.

In some cases of adrenal tumors, surgical removal of the adrenal glands may be necessary.

Radiation therapy for tumors: Sometimes your surgeon can’t remove the entire tumor. If that happens, he or she may recommend radiation therapy—a type of treatment that uses high-energy radiation to shrink tumors and/or destroy cancer cells.

Radiation therapy may also be prescribed if you’re not a candidate for surgery due to various reasons, such as location or size of the tumor. Radiation therapy for Cushing’s syndrome is typically given in small doses over a period of 6 weeks or by a technique called stereotactic radiosurgery or gamma-knife radiation.

Stereotactic radiosurgery is a more precise form of radiation. It targets the tumor without damaging healthy tissue.

With gamma-knife radiation, a large dose of radiation is sent to the tumor, and radiation exposure to the healthy surrounding tissues is minimized. Usually one treatment is needed with this type of radiation.

Medications for Cushing’s syndrome: If surgery and/or radiation aren’t effective, medications can be used to regulate cortisol production in the body. However, for people who have severe Cushing’s syndrome symptoms, sometimes medications are used before surgery and radiation treatment. This can help control excessive cortisol production and reduce risks during surgery.

Examples of medications your doctor may prescribe for Cushing’s syndrome are: aminoglutethimide (eg, Cytadren), ketoconazole (eg, Nizoral), metyrapone (eg, Metopirone), and mitotane (eg, Lysodren). Your doctor will let you know what medication—or combination of medications—is right for you.

You may also need to take medication after surgery to remove a pituitary tumor or adrenal tumor. Your doctor will most likely prescribe a cortisol replacement medication. This medication helps provide the proper amount of cortisol in your body. An example of this type of medication is hydrocortisone (a synthetic form of cortisol).

Experiencing the full effects of the medication can take up to a year or longer. But in most cases and under your doctor’s careful supervision, you can slowly reduce your use of cortisol replacement medications because your body will be able to produce normal cortisol levels again on its own. However, in some cases, people who have surgery to remove a tumor that causes Cushing’s syndrome won’t regain normal adrenal function, and they’ll typically need lifelong replacement therapy.2

Treating Cushing’s Syndrome Conclusion
You may need one treatment or a combination of these treatments to effectively treat your Cushing’s syndrome. Your doctor will let you know what treatments for Cushing’s syndrome you’ll need.

From https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/cushings-syndrome/cushings-syndrome-treatments

Bilateral testicular tumors resulting in recurrent Cushing’s syndrome after bilateral adrenalectomy

Corresponding author: Troy Puar, MRCP (UK), Department of Medicine, Div. of Endocrinology, Radboud University Medical Centre, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Phone: +31 243614599, Fax: +31 243618809, e-mail: Troy_puar@cgh.com.sg
Received: July 14, 2016
Accepted: November 29, 2016
First Published Online: November 30, 2016

Recurrence of hypercortisolism in patients after bilateral adrenalectomy for Cushing’s disease is extremely rare.

We present a rare case of a 27-year-old man who previously underwent bilateral adrenalectomy for Cushing’s disease with complete clinical resolution. Cushingoid features recurred 12 years later, along with bilateral testicular enlargement. Hormonal tests confirmed ACTH-dependent Cushing’s. Surgical resection of the testicular tumors led to clinical and biochemical remission.

We report bilateral testicular tumors occurring in a patient with recurrent Cushing’s disease 12 years after bilateral adrenalectomy. Using mRNA expression analysis and steroid metabolome profiling, the tumors demonstrated both adrenocortical and gonadal steroidogenic properties, similar to testicular adrenal rest tumors found in patients with congenital adrenal hyperplasia. This suggests the presence of pluripotent cells even in patients without CAH.

– See more at: http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/jc.2016-2702#sthash.F4lfWg9j.dpuf

Interview with Doc Karen, Pituitary Patient and Cushing’s Advocate

Karen’s Story

Life was good! In fact, life was great! I was married to the love of my life. We had a beautiful little girl. My husband and I had both earned our graduate degrees. I earned my Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and was growing my clinical practice. I loved my work!

In October, 2006, my life was turned upside down when I gained 30 pounds in 30 days! I knew this was not normal at all. I sought answers but my doctor kept insisting that I wasn’t eating the right foods, that I wasn’t exercising hard enough, and finally that it was genetic. However, I was always a thin person, I ate pretty healthy foods, and I was pretty active. Red flags became even greater when my physician put me on prescription weight loss drugs and I STILL gained another 30 pounds. I knew my body and I knew something was wrong but I had no one to validate what was going on.

In January, 2010, to my surprise, I learned that I was miraculously pregnant with our second daughter. I was so sick during that pregnancy and,  again, my doctors couldn’t figure out why. My OBGYN was very supportive, yet so concerned. Her solution was to put me on bed rest. I became so ill that she told me that “my only job was to sit still and wait to have a baby”. I did give birth to a healthy baby girl four weeks early. Little did I know, then, how much of a miracle she was.

During the latter part of my pregnancy, while flipping through channels on television, I came across a Cushing’s episode on the health TV show, “Mystery Diagnosis”.

I knew right away that this diagnosis fit everything I had been experiencing: years of weird and unexplained symptoms, gaining 150 pounds for no reason, an onset of diabetes, high blood pressure, and an overall sense of doom.

You see, my friends and family witnessed me go from a vibrant young Clinical Psychologist in practice, to someone whose health deteriorated due to the symptoms of Cushing’s, as I tried for many years to get answers from professionals. As I continued to eat a healthy, 1000 calorie per day diet, engage in exercise with multiple personal trainers, and follow through with referrals to consult with dietitians; I continued to gain weight at a rate of 5 pounds per week and experience rapidly declining health. Finally, after watching that Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I found my answer! Ultimately, I sought the expertise of and treatment from a team of experts at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. I had brain surgery in Seattle on November 16th, 2011. I want to tell you how I found the people who helped save my life…

On June 9, 2011, I went to my first MAGIC conference. I had never heard of them but someone on one of the online support groups told me about it.  At that time, I was working but was very, very sick. We suspected at that time that I had been sick for years! My local endocrinologist was far from a Cushing’s expert. After watching the Cushing’s episode of Mystery Diagnosis, I told the same endocrinologist who had misdiagnosed me for years that I had found my answer. He swore that there was “literally no possible way that I had Cushing’s Disease!” He stated that my “hump wasn’t big enough”, “my stretch marks were not purple enough” and that “Cushing’s patients do not have children!” I told him that I was NOT leaving his office until he started testing me. He finally caved in. To his surprise, I was getting abnormal labs back.

At that time, there was evidence of a pit tumor but it wasn’t showing up on an MRI. So, I had my IPSS scheduled. An IPSS stands for Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling. It is done because 60 % of Cushing’s based pituitary tumors are so small that they do not show up on an MRI. Non Cushing’s experts do not know this so they often blow patients off, even after the labs show a high level of ACTH in the brain through blood work. An overproduction of the hormone ACTH from the pituitary communicates to the adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol. Well, the IPSS procedure is where they put catheters up through your groin through your body up into your head to draw samples to basically see which side of your pituitary the extra hormone is coming from, thus indicating where the tumor is. U of C is the only place in IL that does it.

So, back to the MAGIC convention; my husband and I went to this conference looking for answers. We were so confused and scared!  Everyone, and I mean everyone, welcomed us with opened arms like we were family! There were brilliant presenters there, including an endocrinologist named Dr. William Ludlam. At that time, he was the director at the Seattle Pituitary Center in Seattle, WA. He is a true Cushing’s expert. Since then, he left in January, 2012 to have a significant impact toward the contribution of research of those impacted by Cushing’s Syndrome. His position was taken over by another brilliant endocrinologist, Dr. Frances Broyles.

I was scheduled to get an IPSS at U of C on June 28th, 2011 to locate the tumor. Two days after the IPSS, I began having spontaneous blackouts and ended up in the hospital for 6 days. The docs out here had no clue what was happening and I was having between 4-7 blackouts a day! My life was in danger and they were not helping me! We don’t know why, but the IPSS triggered something! But, no one wanted to be accountable so they told me the passing out, which I was not doing before, was all in my head being triggered by psychological issues. They did run many tests. But, they were all the wrong tests. I say all the time; it’s like going into Subway and ordering a turkey sandwich and giving them money and getting a tuna sandwich. You would be mad! What if they told you, “We gave you a sandwich!” Even if they were to give you a dozen sandwiches; if it wasn’t turkey, it wouldn’t be the right one. This is how I feel about these tests that they ran and said were all “normal”. The doctors kept telling us that they ran all of these tests so they could cover themselves. Yet, they were not looking at the right things, even though, I (the patient) kept telling them that this was an endocrine issue and had something to do with my tumor! Well, guess how good God is?!!!!

You see, Dr. Ludlam had given me his business card at the conference, which took place two weeks prior to the IPSS. I put it away for a while. But, something kept telling me to pull the card out and contact him. I am crying just thinking about it, Lord!

So, prior to my IPSS, I wrote Dr. Ludlam an e mail asking him some questions. At that time, he told me to send him ALL of my records including labs. I sent him 80 pages of records that day.  He called me back stating that he concurred with all of the evidence that I definitely have Cushing’s Disease from a pituitary source. He asked me what I planned to do and I told him that I was having the IPSS procedure done in a few days at the University of Chicago. He told me once I got my results to contact him.

Fast forward, I ended up in the hospital with these blackouts after my IPSS. The doctors, including MY local endocrinologist told me there was no medical evidence for my blackouts. In fact, he told the entire treatment team that he even doubted if I even had a tumor! However, this is the same man who referred me for the IPSS in the first place! I was literally dying and no one was helping me! We reached out to Dr. Ludlam in Seattle and told him of the situation. He told me he knew exactly what was going on. For some reason, there was a change in my brain tumor activity that happened after my IPSS. No one, to this day, has been able to answer the question as to whether the IPSS caused the change in tumor activity. The tumor, for some reason, began shutting itself on and off. When it would shut off, my cortisol would drop and would put me in a state of adrenal insufficiency, causing these blackouts!

Dr. Ludlam said as soon as we were discharged, we needed to fly out to Seattle so that he could help me! The hospital discharged me in worse condition then when I came in. I had a blackout an hour after discharge! But get this…The DAY the hospital sent me home saying that I did not have a pit tumor, my IPSS results were waiting for me! EVIDENCE OF TUMOR ON THE LEFT SIDE OF MY PITUITARY GLAND!!!

Two days later, Craig and I were on a plane to Seattle. I had never in my life been to Seattle, nor did I ever think I would go. We saw the man that God used to save my life, Dr. William Ludlam, the same man who we had met at the MAGIC conference for the first time one month prior! He put me on a combo of medications that would pull me out of crisis. Within one month, my blackouts had almost completely stopped! Unfortunately, we knew this was a temporary fix! He was treating me to carry me over to surgery. You see, his neurosurgeon, Dr. Marc Mayberg was just as amazing. He is one of the top neurosurgeons in the US! Statistically, he has one of the highest success rates!

The problem was that our insurance refused to pay for surgery with an expert outside of IL, stating that I could have surgery anywhere in IL! Most people don’t know that pituitary surgeries are very complicated and need the expertise of a “high volume center” which is where they do at least 50 of these surgeries per year. Dr. Mayberg has performed over 5,000 of these surgeries!  By this time, we had learned that we need to fight for the best care! It was what would give me the best chance at life! We thought I would have to wait until January when our insurance would change, to see if I could get the surgery I so desperately needed! I was holding on by a thread!

We began appealing our insurance. At the time the MAGIC foundation had an insurance specialist who was allowed to help us fight our insurance. Her name is Melissa Callahan and she took it upon herself to fight for us as our patient advocate. It was a long and hard battle! But…we finally WON!!!! On November 16th, 2011, Dr. Marc Mayberg found that hidden tumor on the left side of my pituitary gland! He removed the tumor along with 50% of my pituitary gland.

Recovery was a difficult process. They say that it takes about one full year to recover after pituitary surgery for Cushing’s. I was grateful to be in remission, nonetheless. However, about one year after my brain surgery, the Cushing’s symptoms returned. After seven more months of testing that confirmed a recurrence of the Cushing’s, I was cleared for a more aggressive surgery. This time, I had both of my adrenal glands removed as a last resort. By then, we had learned that I had hyperplasia, which is an explosion of tumor cells in my pituitary. It only takes one active cell to cause Cushing’s. Therefore, I could have potentially had several more brain surgeries and the disease would have kept coming back over and over.

As a last resort, my adrenal glands were removed so that no matter how much these cells try to cause my adrenals to produce excessive amounts of cortisol; the glands are not there to receive the message. As a result, I am Adrenally Insufficient for life, which means that my body cannot produce the life sustaining hormone, cortisol, at all. I had my Bilateral Adrenalectomy by world renowned BLA surgeon, Dr. Manfred Chiang, in Wisconsin on August 21st, 2013. I traded Cushing’s Disease for Addison’s Disease, one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make in my life. However, I knew that I would die with Cushing’s. Recovery from my last surgery was difficult and involved weaning down to a maintenance dose of steroid to replace my cortisol. Now, on a maintenance dose; I still have to take extra cortisol during times of physical or emotional stress to prevent my body from going into shock.

I promised a long time ago that I would pay it forward…give back because so much has been given to me. This is why I have committed my life to supporting the Cushing’s community. I post videos on YouTube as a way of increasing awareness. My channel can be found at http://www.YouTube.com/drnkarenthames

Additionally, I am working on a Cushing’s documentary. Please like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Hug.A.Cushie

Thank you for taking the time to read my story!

Karen has made 2 videos about her experiences with Cushing’s:

and

Doc Karen will be our guest in an interview on BlogTalk Radio  Friday December 2 at 11:00 AM eastern.  The Call-In number for questions or comments is (323) 642-1665 .

The archived interview will be available through iTunes Podcasts (Cushie Chats) or BlogTalkRadio.  While you’re waiting, there are currently 90 other past interviews to listen to!

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