Addison's disease, also known as adrenal insufficiency, occurs when the adrenal gland cannot produce adequate amounts of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. This can be a serious and potentially life-threatening situation, as the adrenal gland influences many essential functions in the body. The risk of getting this disease is the same for all people, regardless of age and other factors. Signs and symptoms may take months to appear, or they may develop very quickly and unexpectedly.
If you have Addison's disease, you may notice the following symptoms:
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss
- Diminished appetite
- Hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin)
- Low blood pressure
- Salt craving
- Low blood sugar
- Joint pain
- Body hair loss (women only)
- Sexual dysfunction (women only)
A big danger is the possibility of acute adrenal failure, and it should be considered a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. It happens when symptoms, such as the following, appear quite suddenly.
- Pain in the lower back, abdomen and legs
- Severe vomiting and diarrhea, to the point of dehydration
- Low blood pressure
- High levels of potassium in blood
In cases of Addison's disease, the hormones organically produced by the adrenal glands need to be replaced with synthetic ones through doctor-prescribed medications. However, your acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner can help with managing your symptoms.
According to the philosophy of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, kidney Qi (energy) provides the fundamental basis for Qi of the entire body; therefore, a person with good kidney Qi is more apt to be physically healthy and emotionally balanced. A person with a kidney Qi deficiency may experience a variety of problems, including the symptoms of Addison's disease. It is interesting to note that the adrenal glands are located right on top of the kidneys, indicating the close relationship between the two.
When determining your diagnosis according to acupuncture and Oriental medicine, your practitioner will assess all of your symptoms, even ones that may not seem directly related to Addison's disease. This is because acupuncture and Oriental medicine has the unique ability to treat the whole person and not just the disease. This means each patient suffering from Addison's disease could potentially have a different diagnosis and therefore a different acupuncture treatment plan.
For example, if a patient experiences muscle weakness and diarrhea as the main complaints, an acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner may determine that spleen deficiency plays an important role in the way the disease presents itself. Perhaps this patient will receive an acupuncture treatment that emphasizes a strengthening of the spleen.
It is believed, according to acupuncture and Oriental medicine, that some of the functions of the spleen include keeping the bowel's movements running smoothly and helping maintain muscle and limb strength. So, no matter what your specific complaints may be, acupuncture and Oriental medicine is equipped to help you manage the signs and symptoms of Addison's disease.
Find an Acupuncturist near you to learn how acupuncture and Oriental medicine can help manage your symptoms!
About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.