Adrenal crisis is a life-threatening condition. The anterior pituitary gland does not make enough adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH is responsible for regulating the adrenal gland. The adrenal gland makes hormones that regulate many important bodily functions.
Adrenal crisis is very serious. People with adrenal crisis require immediate treatment.
Adrenal crisis may be caused by:
Factors that increase your chances of developing adrenal crisis include:
Adrenal Crisis may cause:
If you suspect an adrenal crisis, seek medical care immediately.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Blood tests will be done to:
Images of the glands or other structures may be needed. They may be taken with:
An ACTH stimulation test may be done. This test measures ACTH after stimulation. It will help to confirm the diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
Almost all patients with adrenal crisis are dehydrated. Large amount of fluids containing sodium and sugar will be needed.
Steroid and antibiotic medications are needed in an adrenal crisis. If you are vomiting or unconscious, these medications will be given by injection or through an IV.
To help reduce your chances of having adrenal crisis, take the following steps:
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service
Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians
Canadian Institute for Health Information
Acute adrenocortical insufficiency. DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated May 2, 2012. Accessed December 31, 2012.
Adrenocortical insufficiency and Addisons disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/creutz/alert.htm . Updated April 6, 2012. Accessed December 31, 2012.
Adrenal crisis causes death in some people treated with human growth hormone. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.endocrine.niddk.nih.gov/pubs/creutz/alert.htm . Accessed December 31, 2012.
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Last reviewed December 2012 by Kim A. Carmichael, M.D., FACP
Last Updated: 12/31/2012