Adrenal insufficiency is a condition that happens when the adrenal glands do not work properly. These glands, located above the kidneys, make important hormones that help the body handle stress, control blood pressure, and balance salt levels.
There are two types of adrenal insufficiency — primary and central:
A temporary type of adrenal insufficiency also can occur in people who have been treated with high doses of cortisol-like medications (such as prednisone) when the medicine is decreased or stopped.
Symptoms of untreated adrenal insufficiency can include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, and darkening of skin color. However, some people with adrenal insufficiency will have no symptoms unless they're exposed to stress.
Sometimes, symptoms can suddenly become much worse, usually when someone is stressed by illness or injury. This is called an adrenal crisis and requires immediate medical treatment, which usually includes additional hormone treatment and fluids given through a vein.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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