Monday, August 16, 2010

Entry #15 - Addison's for Newbies...

What is Addison's Disease in a layman's description?

Adrenaline is the hormone that can also be understood as fuel. It is created by our Adrenal Glands. Instead of us having to go buy fuel for our bodies, we have this amazing petrol/adrenaline station built right in our body so we can replenish ourselves as needed. If we would like to be environmentally correct, for those of us with Addison's, our solar panels are cracked and are no longer capable of storing up the energy our body requires for survival. Our power is dimming, so we will need synthetic energy through medications. The power factory is inside the adrenal glands and they send out miraculous adrenaline in appropriate releases. It's a wondrous system. It's a life-sustaining event that most people remain clueless about their entire lives. A silent, but indescribable system goes to work every day in your body, without a plug, without a reminder and without notice.

In the morning, your natural adrenaline levels are at their highest level. God is ultra-cool. He thought of all these scenarios with stress that we might encounter and he created us to be able to handle such things ourselves. Well, that takes properly working adrenals. Yes, our bodies are precise little boogers. High levels of adrenaline are normal early in the morning and this makes great sense. The levels are high because you are going to need a lot of fuel to wake up, get going and start your day. It's a dose being released into your body that says, "WAKE THE HECK UP!!! LET'S GET GOING!"

Some people may not feel as if their adrenaline levels are adequate...we've all felt drained at times, whether we have Addison's Disease or not. But, the Adrenals do their part to get your butt into gear. Someone might be rebellious; they push the alarm clock snooze button a few times and feel like a log that can't be moved. An important note is that we all have to confront the fact that our actions affect our bodies in a major way. If we stay up past midnight and need to wake up at 6:00am sharp, there's going to be a problem and your naturally released adrenaline is not going to be sufficient. Staying up late, watching movies, Facebooking or working overtime ---- whatever ---- if it affects your internal-clock and it will have an eventual consequence. Such is life.

If things are going on schedule and the person's adrenals work appropriately, many people hit the ground running in the morning and they go, go, go, until, evening approaches. Strangely, as the day wears onward, our wondrous bodies do something that is really automatically tapers the production of adrenaline to the bare basics so that our body can slow down and relax. Adrenaline levels are drastically reduced so the body will be able to eventually go to sleep for a good night's rest. So, adrenaline level measurements are starkly different from morning to night, and, if you are "normal," you NEVER have to think about any of this because your body takes over to handle it all. We have various auto-pilots throughout our incredible body; our adrenals are a big part of that system and it's easy to take it forgranted. Until, one day, those adrenals malfunction. The results are often devastating. For some, it means death. For me and for my Addisonian brothers and sisters, this means we have been forced to sit in the pilot seat and remain constantly vigilant so we don't crash..

If you have Addison's Disease, you must learn to "pilot" your body. It's a disease that has many storms to maneuver through and mountains to can't have an endocrinologist at your side at all times, so you must be capable of listening for "engine" trouble, you must be in tune with the signals that deserve your attention for self-treatment. After you get your prescription with some extra pills in the bottle for those necessary "stress" doses during battling a cold, stomach virus, getting a kitchen burn, etc. you'll soon learn that self-dosing adjustments is key with Addison's Disease. Don't expect to get a bottle of pills and to "take two" per day and that's that. Noooooo. Far from it. Unfortunately, everyone has stress, physiological and emotional stress that appear, often without warning, on a rather regular basis.

However, before Addison's Disease, you just didn't have to think about anything but the added stress topic itself. Now, you must first think of YOU so that you can continue living and be healthy through stressful event - since your auto-pilot is broken, your medication can help in this battle. But, you must use your medication properly. Under-dosing can be a critical mistake. Your body, in times of stress, must get the proper dose to ward off an Addisonian Crisis. As I've said before, this is a trip that you don't want to make. Avoid it. Don't let denial be your downfall. Increase your meds as appropriate for your situation. You must make adjustments to meet your constantly changing needs - from pills to injections. As needed. If you favor sitting, standing and walking - even breathing - the Addisonian will seriously think about adrenal gland issues. They have learned that they must get their adrenaline from a synthetic form. Mainly, this will be some form of steroids.

Those of us with Addison's develop a regimented prescription plan for replacement hormone therapy in part by steroids, prednisone, hydrocortisone, etc. and for us...we are not getting anything extra out of steroids...we simply take the dose that the body normally would have provided. An Addison's patient needs their steroid supplements so their body can FUNCTION; those steroids, for the Addison's patient, is not sufficient for us to be home-run perfect. Our body is lacking this hormone. We aren't adding more to a current storehouse; our storehouse is empty so we are putting in replacement dosages. In fact, for many with Addison's Disease, we just want to take our meds, then be able to walk into the stadium and make it to our seat. A few of us will still be hitting some home-runs.


  1. I just read the comment that you left on my blog. I couldn't find your email quickly (I'm also ADD) so I'm writing here. From time to time I have mentioned the Addison's on my blog though I mostly write about my art and quilting. I've been wondering if anyone out there would respond. It is amazing sometimes the similarities in people. I have added your blog to my favorites and look forward to corresponding.

  2. I thoroughly enjoy Holly's site - she is a talented artist who is documenting the process of her artwork along with the struggles of her condition - mixing in photos and details about the awesome nature surrounding her home. It is incredible...

    Lana C.

  3. This was great Lana! :) I wish our endo could talk to me like this, maybe I would understand more!

  4. I try to just break it down to how I would have loved to have heard it all - the word "adrenaline" is of course used for "cortisol" because most of us starting out with Addison's/Adrenal Insufficiency have never heard of the word "cortisol." But, it is a breakdown of what our body definitely goes through. I know you have a child with adrenal insufficiency, so this is much more challenging to monitor. In fact, my own mother has much of the credit due for me living through my worst Addison's Crisis episodes...moms are so awesome like that.

    :-) Lana C.


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