What is Adrenal Insufficiency?

Adrenal Insufficiency occurs when the adrenal gland is unable to secrete Cortisol in adequate amounts to maintain the body’s normal function.

Causes:  The cause is either Primary (in the adrenal gland) or secondary (failure of the pituitary gland to secrete ACTH to stimulate the adrenal gland to produce Cortisol.

Primary causes include: Enzyme deficiency (CAH), Adrenal Suppression secondary to high dose steroid treatment for chronic conditions such as chronic renal failure, severe asthma, crohn’s disease of the gut, or as part of oncology or neurosurgical treatment.

Secondary causes: affect the pituitary gland and include: maldevelopment (aplasia or hypoplasia) brain tumours, surgical or irradiation treatments,  and head injuries.

What does the hormone Cortisol do?

Cortisol is important in the body for maintaining blood pressure and normal blood sugar levels.  It protects the body from harmful illness, and supports the body’s function when unwell.


How is it treated. 

***Cortisol is taken on a daily regimen, usually given in 3 doses ( 8am, mid afternoon & at night before bed)  to replace the normal daily amount needed in the body.

***Higher doses are produced when a person is unwell.


What Problems can arise for patients with Adrenal Insufficiency:  (See table below)

Patients with adrenal insufficiency are at risk of an adrenal crisis when unwell, if extra hydrocortisone is not given.  An injection of Hydrocortisone is required when a child is severely unwell.