Addison’s Disease

Other Known Aliasesprimary adrenal insufficiency

Definitionautoimmune destruction of the adrenal cortex that produces cortisol

Clinical Significance In times of physiologic stress, the adrenal glands are unable to produce and secrete cortisol, which is a key hormone in the “fight-or-flight” response.  If the stress is significant (trauma, surgery, hemorrhage, etc.), then the patient can not mount a compensatory response to this stress and can have life-threatening consequences.

HistoryNamed after Thomas Addison (1793-1860), an English physician who received his medical doctorate from the University of Edinburgh Medical School in 1815. He was a house physician at Guy’s Hospital and established himself as a prolific teacher and lecturer, often attracting physicians from all over London. He first described his eponymous disease in a short note in the London Medical Gazette called “Anaemia – Disease of the Suprarenal Capsules”.  This was then followed up by the more well known article “On the Constitutional and Local Effects of Disease of the Suprarenal Capsule” in 1855, which is largely considered the beginning of the study of the adrenal glands.  The disease eponym was original given to Dr. Addison by the French physician, Armand Trousseau, after fierce debate among experts as to whether the disease actually existed.


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