Addison’s disease: How is it diagnosed?

Addison’s disease, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency, is diagnosed through a combination of symptoms, physical signs, and blood tests. In this article, we will explore the most common methods and explain how they work.

First, a doctor will review the individual’s medical history, and the patient will be asked whether there are any close relatives with autoimmune disorders.

The doctor will be interested in what symptoms are present, when they began, and how they affect everyday life. The doctor will carry out a physical examination, looking out for certain signs, such as low blood pressure or brownish discoloration of the skin (hyperpigmentation).

There are several tests that can assist in the diagnosis of Addison’s disease.

Fast facts on Addison’s disease

Here are some key points about Addison’s disease. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

Early symptoms may prompt a doctor to carry out a physical examination.

Medical history and autoimmune disorders in family history can make the likelihood of diagnosis higher.

Several tests, including blood tests, may be carried out.

How is Addison’s disease diagnosed?

Blood pressure test.
A blood pressure test is usually performed when diagnosing Addison’s disease. Low blood pressure can be a symptom of this condition.

The first step in diagnosis is suspecting the disease based on signs and symptoms. These include:

Symptoms – such as fatigue or weakness, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, dizziness, muscle pain or joint pain.

Low blood pressure – this will be taken, usually while the patient is sitting, and then again shortly after standing up.

Abnormal blood tests – such as low sodium (hyponatremia), low glucose (hypoglycemia) or high potassium (hypernatremia).

Urine test – this will show whether levels of cortisol are low.

After these tests, more specifics tests will be performed. These may include:

Blood test vials.
Addison’s disease can be diagnosed through a range of different methods, such as blood tests.

cortisol levels in the urine

morning cortisol level in the blood

cortisol level in the saliva

aldosterone levels in the blood

adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) levels in the blood

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