Addison’s disease treatment: Medications, side effects, and prognosis

Treatment of Addison’s disease generally involves corticosteroid replacement therapy. The medications are taken for life. The corticosteroid medication, which is usually taken orally (by mouth), replaces the cortisol and aldosterone the body is not producing.

Treatment options for Addison’s disease include many medications, usually in the form of tablets, depending on the specific hormones that the body is missing.

The outlook is positive if the corticosteroid replacement therapy is maintained – it is vital that patients follow the doctor’s instructions.

Fast facts on Addison’s disease treatment

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

Treatment focuses on corticosteroid replacement therapy, usually in the form of tablets once or twice daily.

Home treatments, including injectable corticosteroids, may be required for emergencies.

Treatment lasts for the rest of a patient’s life and focuses on managing symptoms.

Prognosis is good, so long as medications are taken as directed, but regular doctor consultations are required.

What medications are available for Addison’s disease?

Adrenal glands diagram
Addison’s disease affects the adrenal glands.

The drugs required to effectively treat Addison’s depends on the hormones that are no longer being effectively produced in the adrenal glands.

Some potential medications include the following:

Hydrocortisone – these tablets replace the missing cortisol. Prednisolone or dexamethasone are prescribed less commonly.

Fludrocortisone – might be prescribed for missing aldosterone.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) – these pills may be prescribed if there is an androgen (the male sex hormone) deficiency.

Medication side effects

Side effects of hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone: include sleep problems, acne, slow wound healing, dizziness, nausea, and increased sweating.

Side effects of DHEA in women: similar to above but may also include changes in menstrual cycle, developing a deeper voice, and facial hair growth.

The frequency a patient has to take medication depends on their level of hormone deficiency and the severity of their symptoms. As a result, patients will have their treatment program tweaked by a healthcare professional over time.

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