Friday, 16 December 2011

Addisonian Crisis... or stressful football match?

I found an article on BBC News about how a woman was recently diagnosed with Addison's Disease, and one of the key clues to her underlying condition was her extreme response to the stress of watching particularly close and high profile football matches. They think that treatment for her condition may have cured her extreme reaction to tense games of football... but they can't be sure because her treatment and diagnosis has happened at the same time as a run of easy matches for her favourite team!

Addison's Disease is a medical condition which occurs when the body does not produce enough cortisol, a steroid hormone - basically it's the opposite of Cushing's Disease. Some people who suffer from pituitary problems due to a pituitary tumour, or after surgical removal of a tumour, are unable to produce ACTH, the pituitary hormone which stimulates the body's production of cortisol, and consequently they need to take steroids to make up for the lack of cortisol. The tricky part is that the body needs more steroid hormone when it's under stress, so when people who take steroids are sick or injured, they need to double their dosage.

After pituitary surgery, most people including me, go onto steroid replacement pills just in case there's been any damage to the part of the pituitary that produces ACTH, and take them until doctors are sure that the body is producing steroids naturally.

The aim of this is to make sure they don't suffer an Addisonian crisis, which is an acute medical emergency where there is a severe shortage of cortisol, usually in a high-stress situation. If untreated it can lead to death or coma, so people whose bodies don't produce cortisol on their own usually have some form of medical ID in case they're in an accident, to inform paramedics that they will need steroids immediately.

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