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Addisonian crisis

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An Addisonian crisis is a serious medical ailment triggered by the body’s inability to produce enough cortisol. Once an individual is stressed out, the adrenal glands which are positioned on top of the kidneys release the hormone cortisol. This is a dangerous condition if the cortisol levels are not restored.


Cortisol helps the body respond properly to stress. It also has a role in immune system response, bone health and food metabolism. The body normally balances the amount of hormone produced.

Individuals who have Addison’s disease or have impaired adrenal glands might not be able to produce sufficient amounts of cortisol. If the level is low, it can lead to fatigue, weakness and low blood pressure. More symptoms might be present if Addison’s disease is not treated or the adrenal glands are damaged due to severe stress from an infection or vehicular accident.

What are the indications?

  • Mental confusion
    An individual with Addisonian crisis is usually managed with an injection of hydrocortisone. This medication can be injected into a muscle or vein.
  • Extreme weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea or stomach pain
  • Appetite loss
  • Fever
  • Abrupt pain in the legs or lower back
  • Significant drop in the blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Skin rashes
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Loss of consciousness

Risk factors

  • Diagnosed with Addison’s disease
  • Severe dehydration
  • Recent surgery involving the adrenal glands
  • Certain forms of physical trauma or severe stress
  • Impaired pituitary gland
  • Undergoing treatment for adrenal insufficiency but not taking the prescribed medications

Management of Addisonian crisis


An individual with Addisonian crisis is usually managed with an injection of hydrocortisone. This medication can be injected into a muscle or vein.

Home treatment

The individual might be prescribed with a kit that includes a hydrocortisone injection if diagnosed with Addison’s disease. The doctor will instruct the individual on how to administer a shot.

It is not advisable to wait until too weak or confused to administer a shot, especially if vomiting is already present. Once a shot is given, get in touch with a doctor right away. Remember that the kit is used to stabilize the condition, but medical care is still required.

Treatment for severe cases

After an Addisonian crisis, the individual should be taken to the nearest healthcare facility for ongoing assessment. This is done to ensure that the condition has been treated properly.

Quick Note / Disclaimer

The material posted on this page on Addisonian crisis is for learning and educational purposes only. To learn to recognize and manage sudden medical emergencies, register for a first aid and CPR course with Red Deer First Aid.

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