Everything You Need to Know about Adrenal Crisis


Many seemingly simple health concerns can lead to life-threatening problems. One of these medical emergencies is called adrenal crisis. This problem comes with a high mortality rate, so it is important to be aware of this type of illness and find ways to get the best care.

If you want to learn more about adrenal crisis, keep on reading.

What Is Adrenal Crisis?

Adrenal crisis occurs when the cortisol levels in the body are not enough to maintain proper function. The adrenal glands produce cortisol, and they are found on top of the body’s kidneys. Cortisol is a hormone that helps the body regulate blood sugar and blood pressure, as a part of the body’s response to stimuli, particularly stress.

When cortisol levels get messed up, urgent care is required as this concern can be life-threatening. 

What Are the Symptoms of Adrenal Crisis?

Some signs that you may have problems with your adrenal glands are:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Feeling a general sense of weakness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Low blood pressure
  • Hypovolemic shock

What Are the Main Causes of Adrenal Crisis?

There are numerous health conditions that can lead to adrenal crisis.

Primary Adrenal Insufficiency

One of the leading causes of adrenal crisis is Addison’s disease, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency. With this condition, the adrenal glands are not functioning well, leading to the failure to produce cortisol and aldosterone, another hormone needed to maintain the balance of potassium and sodium in the body.

Primary adrenal insufficiency may occur due to the following:

  • Adrenomyeloneuropathy – a neurological disorder
  • Autoimmune Adrenalitis – a disease where the immune system goes rogue and attacks the adrenal glands
  • Bilateral Adrenalectomy – removal of adrenal glands
  • Cancer spreading to adrenal glands
  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia – adrenal glands can’t produce hormones
  • Infections – may be AIDS, fungi, or tuberculosis

Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency

Secondary adrenal insufficiency is caused by problems in the pituitary gland, leading to a lack of cortisol in the body. This can show up due to the following problems:

  • Traumatic Head Injury
  • Pituitary Tumor
  • Sheehan’s Syndrome – severe blood loss due to childbirth

Adrenal Hemorrhage

Though this condition is extremely rare, there is a chance for the adrenal gland to bleed out. Some possible situations that will lead to this problem include anticoagulants, burns, trauma, and sepsis.

How Can You Diagnose Adrenal Crisis?

Identifying this condition can be very difficult as the symptoms are similar to other deadly health concerns. Usually, doctors request adrenal gland tests to determine if they respond correctly. Sometimes, tests for blood sugar, cortisol, sodium, and potassium levels are also requested for diagnosis.

How Can Your Treat Adrenal Crisis?

The primary treatment for adrenal crisis is an intravenous or intramuscular application of hydrocortisone. Additionally, the patient will be given fluids via IV to help beat low blood pressure and dehydration.

When the emerging symptoms are managed, the doctors will identify what underlying conditions led to this illness, and a treatment plan to beat this condition will be developed.

How Can You Cope with Adrenal Crisis?

If you have ever experienced an adrenal crisis, make sure that you have an identification card with you that can inform healthcare professionals of your previous history. This simple act can be a thing that will save your life in case of an emergency.

Final Thoughts

An adrenal crisis is a very difficult problem to encounter. Whether you or your kid goes through it, make sure you are ready against any medical emergency and always have a doctor on call should you have problems.

For excellent family doctors and your emergency care needs, check out Agile Urgent Care today. We offer pediatric and adult care, as well as telemedicine services to keep your health in check, especially in these trying times. Book an appointment today for a consultation.

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