Discharge Instructions for Addison Disease and Addisonian Crisis

You have been diagnosed with Addison disease, which occurs when your adrenal glands don’t make enough of the hormone cortisol. In some cases, the adrenal glands also don’t produce enough aldosterone, also a hormone. This disease is sometimes called adrenal insufficiency or hypocortisolism. A flare-up is called an addisonian crisis. Here’s what you can do at home to care for yourself.

Prevent an addisonian crisis

Take steps to protect yourself from addisonian crisis.

  • Take your medication regularly. You may need to increase your hormone medicine at times. Your health care provider(s) should explain when you will need to do this. 

  • Avoid getting dehydrated. Drink plenty of fluids.

  • Stay healthy. Avoid crowds during cold and flu season.

  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands frequently.

  • Ask your doctor about vaccinations to help keep you healthy.

  • If you are ill, take extra medication doses as directed by your medical team.

  • If you can't keep the medication down because of vomiting, take the medication by injection, as directed by your medical team.

Other home care

  • Increase your salt intake if your health care provider advises you to. Examples of salty foods are canned soups and potato chips. Use table salt where needed.

  • Treat minor flare-ups with extra salt and fluids. It's very important to avoid becoming dehydrated.

  • Take all medications exactly as directed. You will need to take replacement hormones for the rest of your life.

  • Get a medical identification bracelet that says, “Addison disease: steroid replacement required daily.” Wear it at all times in case of emergency.

  • Be sure to tell all your health care professionals (including dentists, surgeons, and specialists) that you have Addison disease.

  • Your dose may need to be doubled or tripled if you are injured or become seriously ill. Ask your doctor to explain when and why you might need to increase your steroid dose. 

  • You might need an emergency shot if you are in an accident or if you are unable to keep your oral hormone pill down because of repeated vomiting. Carry a steroid injection kit for emergencies as directed by your doctor. You might need an emergency shot if you are in an accident.

  • Before you have a surgical procedure, tell your doctor or surgeon that you have Addison disease. Your steroid dose may need to be increased.

  • Keep your regular follow-up appointments with your doctor.

Follow-up care

Make a follow-up appointment as directed by our staff.

When to seek medical care

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Tiredness or weakness

  • Loss of appetite or weight loss

  • Dizziness when you stand up after sitting or lying down

  • Muscle aches

  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea

  • Sharp pain in your lower back, abdomen, or legs

  • Infection of any kind

  • A fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher