Acute Adrenal Crisis

Lower Back | Urology | Acute Adrenal Crisis (Disease)


Acute adrenal crisis is a serious condition that happens when the hormone named cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands is not enough. There are two adrenal glands and are located on top of the kidneys. They consist of an outer portion, called the cortex, and the inner portion, called the medulla. The cortex produces three types of hormones, all of which are called corticosteroids.

Symptoms that can be present are: abdominal pain, confusion or coma, dizziness or lightheadedness, fatigue, headache, high fever, loss of appetite, nausea, rapid heart rate, unintentional weight loss, unusual and excessive sweating on face or palms, vomiting etc.

Causes and Risk factors

Adrenal crisis occurs when: the adrenal gland is damaged, in Addisons disease or primary adrenal insufficiency; the pituitary gland is injured (secondary adrenal insufficiency) and it cannot release ACTH; adrenal insufficiency is not properly treated.

Risk factors for adrenal crisis include: dehydration, infection and other physical stress, injury to the adrenal or pituitary gland, stopping treatment with steroids such as prednisone or hydrocortisone quickly or too early, surgery, trauma.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Tests include: ACTH (cosyntropin) stimulation test; Cortisol level; Fasting blood sugar; Serum potassium; Serum sodium.

In adrenal crisis, patients need an immediate injection of hydrocortisone through a vein (intravenous) or muscle (intramuscular). If infection caused the crisis, you may need antibiotic therapy. Shock may occur if treatment is not provided early, and it can be life-threatening, and also seizure or coma. ...