Adrenal insufficiency results from a lack of hormones made by the adrenal glands, which are glands found above each kidney. These glands produce hormones called cortisol and aldosterone. These hormones are needed to maintain a normal blood pressure, fluid and electrolyte balance, and blood sugar level, especially during times of physical stress.
Adrenal insufficiency may be caused by damage to either the adrenal glands, or the pituitary gland. Both of these glands are important for the production of adrenal hormones. The long term use of steroids can also cause adrenal insufficiency. Less commonly, adrenal insufficiency can result from inherited conditions that affect the ability of the adrenal glands to make hormones.
A blood test for cortisol may help to determine if you have adrenal insufficiency. If the result is borderline, you may need to undergo hormone stimulation test known as an ACTH stimulation test to confirm the diagnosis.
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