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(Acute Adrenocortical Insufficiency)
by Krisha McCoy, MS
Adrenal crisis is a life-threatening condition. It is caused by a deficiency of a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol helps to keep the body in balance with influence over blood glucose levels, immune system, blood pressure, and more.
Cortisol is made in the adrenal glands which sit just above the kidney. However, the pituitary gland, which sits just below the brain, regulates how much cotrisol should be made.
Adrenal crisis may be caused by:
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may increase your chance of adrenal crisis include:
Adrenal crisis may cause:
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. If the doctor suspects an adrenal crisis, the diagnosis will be confirmed through blood tests to look for abnormal levels of hormones, electrolytes, and blood sugar.
Adrenal crisis is a very serious and potentially life threatening. People with adrenal crisis require immediate medical care.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment will include the following:
Almost all people with adrenal crisis are dehydrated. Large amount of fluids containing sodium and other electrolytes will be needed.
Glucocorticoid replacement is 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 chance of an adrenal crisis:
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians
Canadian Institute for Health Information
Adrenal crisis causes death in some people treated with hGH. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated September 2012. Accessed May 5, 2016.
Adrenal insufficiency and Addison's disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 2014. Accessed May 5, 2016.
Adrenal insufficiency in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated December 29, 2015. Accessed September 27, 2016.
Omori K, Nomura K, Shimizu S, Omori N, Takano K. Risk factors for adrenal crisis in patients with adrenal insufficiency. Endocrine J. 2003;50(6):745-752.
Thomas Z. An update on the diagnosis of adrenal insufficiency and the use of corticotherapy in critical illness. Ann Pharmacotherapy. 2007:41(9):1456-1465
Todd GRG, Acerini CL, Ross-Russell R, et al. Survey of adrenal crisis associated with inhaled corticosteroids in the United Kingdom. Arch. Dis Child. 2002;87(6):457-461.
Last reviewed May 2016 by Kim Carmichael, MD
Last Updated: 5/5/2016
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