Q. Can Addison's disease be passed on to next generations?

Answered by Dr. Lohit Chauhan and medically reviewed by Dr. Divya Banu M


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Hello doctor,

Is Addison’s disease hereditary? My mother died from complications relating to Addison’s disease and over the last year or so I have been developing symptoms that could be consistent with it (hyperpigmentation, abdominal pain, dizziness).

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Dr. Lohit Chauhan
General Medicine, Internal Medicine


Welcome to iclinq.com.

Addison's disease (primary adrenal insufficiency) can be due to many causes. It is like when your adrenal glands are not producing the hormones they usually produce. While in the past, infections (particularly tuberculosis) were the most common cause for the destruction of adrenals, but now the most common cause worldwide is autoimmune destruction of the adrenals. As with other autoimmune diseases, there can be a hereditary component and associated with other autoimmune diseases.

Weight loss, fatigue, postural hypotension (feeling dizzy when upright) and hyperpigmentation are the initial symptoms. Among those, you have a few. You should definitely get yourself screened for it, by undertaking a cosyntropin stimulation test. And if that is positive, you should get your plasma renin activity checked, along with serum aldosterone concentration. Also serum ACTH levels. Increased basal serum ACTH concentration, high renin, and low aldosterone will help in making the diagnosis.

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