Type 1 Diabetes and Addison’s Disease

The information below can save a life.

The presence of Addison’s Disease can fly under the radar of a young adult with Type 1 Diabetes. It did for our son who died un-expectantly in his sleep at 33 years old. Other than his Diabetes, he was in perfect health. He exercised and had no complications from his disease. However, he did have times when he did not need as much insulin. He was never forewarned about Addison’s Disease, so he did not know to watch for it. He was not told probably because it is rare. However, it  is another autoimmune diseases just like Type 1 Diabetes, and is within the realm of possibility for a Type 1 Diabetic. In Type 1 Diabetes the body’s antibodies attack the pancreas. In Addition’s, the body’s antibodies attack the adrenal glands. Both the pancrease and the adrenal glands are a part of the endocrine system.

If you or someone you know has Type 1 Diabetes and has unexplained low episodes with insulin needs that fluctuate, get tested for Addison’s Disease through an ACTH blood test. More than likely, the test results will be negative. But, if not, a tragedy has been avoided, because the combination of Type 1 Diabetes and Addison’s Disease is deadly if not treated.

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Understanding Autoimmune Diseases
People with type 1 diabetes may have an increased risk of developing other autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system attacks parts of the body. If left untreated, these diseases may cause severe complications and death. Some of these diseases are considered rare, but there is not enough research yet to know how many people are at risk. When a person has more than one autoimmune disease affecting different glands, it is sometimes called polyglandular (more than one gland) autoimmune syndrome.
How do I know if I have polyglandular autoimmune syndrome?
Your doctor or endocrinologist can test you for polyglandular autoimmune syndrome based on the symptoms you have. You can also be screened for polyglandular autoimmune diseases before showing symptoms. Early detection is the best way to prevent serious complications. Most tests involve taking a blood sample for a lab to study. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
What autoimmune diseases interact with type 1 diabetes?
This list is not comprehensive, but will review some of the main polyglandular autoimmune diseases that can interact with type 1 diabetes. For a complete list, visit http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov.
• Addison’sdisease
• Celiacdisease
• Hypothyroid and hyperthyroid disease
• Perniciousanemia
What can I do?
Ask your doctor about polyglandular autoimmune syndrome. Pay attention to the symptoms you experience as a person with type 1 diabetes and report anything unusual to your doctor. Talk to your doctor about the amount of insulin you take, your diet, glucose levels, and how much you exercise. You have information that is valuable to your doctor and your health!
Information for this educational flyer was taken from the National Institute of Health. This flyer is not intended to take the place of medical advice.
What are some symptoms of polyglandular autoimmune diseases?
This list is not comprehensive and may not include symptoms you are experiencing.
• Chronic hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
• Taking significantly less insulin to prevent hypoglycemia(low blood sugar)
• Darkening of the skin, patchy skin color, or unnaturally dark color in some places
• Paleness
• Brittle nails, dry hair, scaly skin
• Muscle cramps or muscle spasms
• Pain in the face, legs, and feet
• Seizures
• Tingling lips, fingers, and toes
• Cataracts
• Weakened tooth enamel (in children)
• Mouth lesions on the inside of a cheek
• Painful menstruation or changes in cycle
• Fatigue
• Depression
• Changes in blood pressure or heart rate
• Unintentional weight loss
• Abdominal pain
• Loss of appetite
• Nausea and vomiting
• Diarrhea or constipation
• Salt craving
• Slow, sluggish movement
• Extreme weakness and fatigue

Let your doctor know if you are experiencing any of the conditions listed above or other unusual symptoms, and ask if you should be tested for a polyglandular autoimmune disease.

Educate Yourself!
For more information about polyglandular autoimmune syndrome visit one of these websites:
http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov
http://www.rarediseases.org
Information for this educational flyer was taken from the National Institute of Health. This flyer is not intended to take the place of medical advice.
This tip sheet is not copyrighted, you may reproduce and redistribute the content.

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