What causes Adrenal Insufficiency?

Primary Adrenal Insufficiency (Addison's Disease)

  • Surgical removal of both adrenal glands
  • Autoimmune Diseases (when the body's own immune system attacks itself)
  • Granulomatous Diseases (e.g. tuberculosis and histoplasmosis)
  • Metastatic malignancies (Spread of cancers e.g. lung or breast cancer to the adrenal gland)
  • Pharmacological steroid therapy
  • Haemorrhage (bleeding in the adrenal gland, often as a result of anticoagulant therapy)
  • Meningococcal septicaemia (Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome) - septicaemia (infection in the bloodstream) followed by adrenal
  • Rare hereditary diseases
  • Pneumocystis infection (as a complication of AIDS)

Secondary and Tertiary Adrenal Insufficiency

  • Hypothalamic and Pituitary lesion
  • Trauma
  • Surgery
  • Radiation
  • Infection
  • Tumours
  • Suppression of the adrenals after long-term steroid use (this is covered in more detail in the section on the pituitary)