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Addison's Disease!

Updated: 5 days ago

A unique story from a member of the community living with Addison's Disease (and other conditions!) 💜

*Readers are warned that the content described in this story contains medical information and may be upsetting to some people. Please read with caution. The content has been supplied by a person living with Addison's Disease. We advise discretion and highly recommend you do not self-diagnose and seek advice from a medical professional.

Signs and symptoms of Addison's disease
Addison's Disease

I was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease while living and working in a small rural town in Devon in the United Kingdom. At the time it was very scary as I was living and working independently and away from my family and friends.

I have also had Type 1 diabetes since the age of 5 years old and was later diagnosed with

Hashimoto’s. I call my combination of autoimmune conditions “the holy trio” but it is formally known as Schmidt's Syndrome or Autoimmune Polyglandular Syndrome type 2 (APS type 2)

Addison’s is a rare autoimmune condition when your adrenal glands stop producing hormones, specifically cortisol and aldosterone. These hormones support a lot of bodily functions including regulating your body's response to stress, energy levels, blood pressure and levels of sodium in the blood. I treat my Addison’s by taking steroids 3 times a day, every day and without steroid replacement therapy I cannot function.

At the time of diagnosis, I was in a state of adrenal crisis with some of the symptoms I

experienced extreme fatigue, loss of consciousness, nausea and vomiting, salt cravings and hyperpigmentation of my skin. An adrenal crisis is a life-threatening condition if left untreated and living with Addison’s disease requires ongoing management and proactive steps to stay well and out of adrenal crisis. For example, if I am exposed to a virus or get the common cold I have to increase my steroid medications to avoid going into an adrenal crisis. For a person with a functioning adrenal gland, their body would naturally produce more cortisol to deal with the physical stress of contracting a virus or illness.

There is a funny side to life with Addison’s, T1 Diabetes and Hashimoto’s which I try to

acknowledge in small ways that keep me upbeat and positive. For example, despite having to use injections and needles since the age of 5 years old I am still terrified of needles and blood. I have to do my insulin pump set to change every 3 days and my partner and I joke saying “No fainting” or “Is it a bleeder?” to make light of my queasiness at the sight of blood. My insulin pump’s nickname is “Franco Panko”.

On a more serious note, living and working with all my chronic health conditions can also be challenging at times, particularly managing stress delicately and my mental health, as I can have some very low days. The strategy of pacing has really helped me to manage my health while working and living.

I am a firm believer that living with my conditions has made me a strong, compassionate and resilient person. It has also meant that I identify with the disability and chronic illness community which has found me fostering awesome connections with incredible individuals with powerful

stories to share. My life with chronic illnesses has made me who I am and this is why I wouldn’t change a thing!

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Alexa Young, CA

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