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What causes Addison's disease?

The gradual destruction of the adrenal cortex, the outer layer of the adrenal glands, by the body's immune system causes up to 80 percent of cases of Addison's disease. In autoimmune disorders, the immune system makes antibodies that attack the body's tissues or organs and slowly destroy them.

Adrenal insufficiency occurs when at least 90 percent of the adrenal cortex has been destroyed. As a result, often both cortisol and aldosterone are lacking. Sometimes, only the adrenal glands are affected. Sometimes, other endocrine glands are affected as well, as in polyendocrine deficiency syndrome.

This answer is based on source information from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Addison's disease can be caused by almost anything that damages or destroys the adrenal glands. Actually, the exact cause of the disease is unknown in about 70 percent of people with Addison's disease. In those cases, there is usually some kind of autoimmune reaction in which the body's immune system attacks the adrenal glands. In other cases, Addison's disease may be caused when the adrenal glands are damaged by cancers, infections, or other diseases. In children, the disease can be caused by genetic problems with the adrenal glands.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.