Adrenal insufficiency

Hello everyone, welcome to Today the topic I want to discuss is adrenal insufficiency… and that is because I was diagnosed with it, again, today because my cortisol levels were undetectable per lab work.

Cortisol helps your body respond effectively to stress. It also plays a role in bone health, immune system response, and the metabolism of food. Without the proper levels, one can experience dehydration, pain in abdomen, fatigue, sudden dizziness, severe chills, vomiting, and even loss of consciousness. Low blood pressure is also common. (Side note, I have experienced all of these symptoms recently.)

The low levels in my blood, mixed with my very intense symptoms, convinced my medical team that I had adrenal insufficiency again.

For those of you who are unaware, I was treated for adrenal insufficiency last year through April 2020. I stopped taking the steroids when my endocrinologist said my glands were working properly again and I could discontinue the medicine. I did as my doctor said but felt lots of symptoms return – like fatigue and weakness.

Currently, steroids such as Cortef are the only treatment available to treat this disease. But the side effects are very extreme – weight gain, irritability, and hair growth are a few.

Now we fast forward to last week when I had my surgery. The procedure went very well, but my heart rate was too fast, or what medical professionals refer to as tachycardia. At complete rest, my heart rate spiked to 180 bpm and a crash cart had to be brought in. Luckily, they were able to reduce my heart rate with a medication called Adenosine and no paddles were needed.

After days of tests coming back normal, including an echocardiogram and a CT scan to rule out a pulmonary embolism, the medical doctor decided to check my cortisol levels again. Sure enough my hypothesis was correct! My adrenal glands were failing again. He explained to me how lucky I am to not have died during surgery since I did not receive a loading dose of steroids.  

Lastly, it is a life-threatening condition that I will have to manage for the rest of my life. For example, when the body is under stress (e.g. fighting an infection or during surgery), this deficiency of cortisol can result in death. During those times patients are supposed to double their regular dose or receive a “loading dose” through an IV. I had neither before my surgery because I had the “all clear” from my previous physician.

I am grateful to have an answer as to why I had such severe symptoms. Getting news that you have a life threatening condition is never easy, but it at least validates the fact that I have not been well the past 6 months.

I hope you learned something interesting from this post. Follow me on Instagram for more information @chronically_juliann

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