Recovery of adrenal function in a patient with confirmed Addison's disease

M Baxter, S Gorick, F M Swords (Lead / Corresponding author)

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Abstract

UNLABELLED: Addison's disease is a condition characterised by immune-mediated destruction of the adrenal glands leading to a requirement of lifelong replacement therapy with mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid. We present a case of a 53-year-old man who presented at the age of 37 years with nausea, fatigue and dizziness. He was found to have postural hypotension and buccal pigmentation. His presenting cortisol level was 43 nmol/l with no response to Synacthen testing. He made an excellent response to conventional replacement therapy with hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone and then remained well for 16 years. On registering with a new endocrinologist, his hydrocortisone dose was revised downwards and pre- and post-dose serum cortisol levels were assessed. His pre-dose cortisol was surprisingly elevated, and so his dose was further reduced. Subsequent Synacthen testing was normal and has remained so for further 12 months. He is now asymptomatic without glucocorticoid therapy, although he continues on fludrocortisone 50 μg daily. His adrenal antibodies are positive, although his ACTH and renin levels remain elevated after treatment. Addison's disease is generally deemed to lead to irreversible cell-mediated immune destruction of the adrenal glands. For this reason, patients receive detailed counselling and education on the need for lifelong replacement therapy. To our knowledge, this is the third reported case of spontaneous recovery of the adrenal axis in Addison's disease. Recovery may therefore be more common than previously appreciated, which may have major implications for the treatment and monitoring of this condition, and for the education given to patients at diagnosis.

LEARNING POINTS: Partial recovery from Addison's disease is possible although uncommon.Patients with long-term endocrine conditions on replacement therapy still benefit from regular clinical and biochemical assessment, to revisit optimal management.As further reports of adrenal axis recovery emerge, this may influence the counselling given to patients with Addison's disease in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number130070
Number of pages4
JournalEndocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism Case Reports
Volume2013
Issue number1
Early online date1 Dec 2013
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013

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