Navigating Life with Addison’s Disease: Cortisol

January 14, 2024by Dr. S. F. Czar0

Case Study:

Patient Profile:

Name: Emily

Age: 35

Gender: Female

Chief Complaint:

Emily, a 35-year-old woman, presented to her endocrinologist with complaints of chronic fatigue, dizziness, and occasional nausea. She had been previously diagnosed with Addison’s disease at the age of 25 and had been managing her condition with oral corticosteroid medication.

Case Presentation:

History and Initial Assessment:

Emily reported feeling increasingly fatigued over the past few months, despite taking her medication regularly. She described experiencing dizziness when standing up, especially in the morning, and occasional episodes of nausea. Her medical history included an adrenal crisis two years ago, which required hospitalization.

Physical Examination:

During the physical examination, Emily’s blood pressure was found to be low, and she appeared dehydrated. Her skin exhibited hyperpigmentation, a common sign of Addison’s disease.

Laboratory Investigations:

Blood tests were ordered to assess Emily’s hormonal profile and electrolyte levels. The results revealed:

  • Low cortisol levels, even though she was adherent to her medication.
  • Elevated levels of potassium and low levels of sodium, indicative of mineralocorticoid deficiency.
  • Mildly low blood glucose levels.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
  • Adrenal Crisis: Emily’s symptoms, low cortisol levels, and electrolyte imbalances indicated an adrenal crisis. She was immediately admitted to the hospital for intravenous (IV) corticosteroid therapy and electrolyte correction.
  • Medication Review: Emily’s corticosteroid medication dosage was reviewed, and it was discovered that she had not been stress dosing appropriately during illness or stressful situations. The importance of stress dosing was emphasized, and a personalized stress dosing plan was created.
  • Mineralocorticoid Replacement: Due to her elevated potassium and low sodium levels, Emily was prescribed fludrocortisone, a synthetic mineralocorticoid, in addition to her cortisol replacement therapy.
  • Patient Education: Emily received extensive education on the management of Addison’s disease, including the necessity of stress dosing, monitoring for signs of adrenal crises, and dietary considerations.
Outcome and Progress:

Emily’s hospitalization for the adrenal crisis was a turning point in her Addison’s disease management. She was educated about the critical importance of stress dosing and recognized the need to adjust her medication regimen during illness or high-stress periods.

With the addition of fludrocortisone to her treatment plan, Emily’s electrolyte imbalances were corrected, and she reported feeling more stable and energetic. Regular follow-up appointments with her endocrinologist allowed for ongoing monitoring of her cortisol and electrolyte levels.

Emily also joined a support group for individuals with Addison’s disease, where she could share her experiences, gain insights into managing the condition, and find emotional support from others facing similar challenges.


Emily’s case underscores the importance of vigilant cortisol management in Addison’s disease, especially regarding stress dosing. Adequate patient education, close monitoring, and personalized treatment plans are essential for individuals with this condition to prevent adrenal crises and maintain a good quality of life. Addison’s disease management is a lifelong journey, but with proper care and adherence to treatment guidelines, individuals can lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

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