The adrenal glands, located above the kidneys, secrete many hormones essential for the body's normal functions. People with adrenal insufficiency do not produce enough of two vital hormones, called cortisol and aldosterone. Cortisol's most important function is to help the body respond to stress, such as surgery and illness, and recover from infections. The hormone also helps maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular functions and regulate the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Aldosterone regulates the amount of salt, potassium and water in the body, maintaining the proper balance.
Men and women of all ages are equally affected by adrenal insufficiency, which may be permanent or temporary and can be treated with medications. Causes of the permanent form of the condition include Addison's disease, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, complete surgical removal of the pituitary gland or the adrenal glands. Temporary adrenal insufficiency can be caused by physical stress, infections, surgery or failure to take corrective medication.
Our Approach to Adrenal Insufficiency
UCSF is an international leader in endocrinology care. Our team provides comprehensive consultations, evaluations and treatments for a wide range of adrenal hormone disorders, such as adrenal insufficiency.
We can effectively manage adrenal insufficiency using medications that replace hormones the body isn't producing. Proper treatment should allow patients to enjoy an active lifestyle with normal life expectancy. As with most chronic illnesses, treating adrenal insufficiency requires that patients take responsibility for some aspects of their care, such as by wearing a medical alert bracelet, following dietary recommendations and staying in contact with their health care team.
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UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.