Rare Disease Education: Adrenal Insufficiency

Adrenal Insufficiency

Rare Disease Education: Adrenal Insufficiency

Editor: Kelsey LaFayette, DNP, RN, FNP-C

"When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses, not zebras,” is a common saying in medical education that means you should think of common conditions first, instead of rare ones, in making a diagnosis. “Rare” is a relative term though and about 7,000 rare, or "zebra," conditions affect more than 350 million individuals worldwide. Although these conditions collectively affect an enormous number of people,  each of these conditions individually is rare enough that it can be difficult to secure the resources to study them and to develop treatments and cures. Likewise, awareness of rare conditions may be low and health care professionals may not be familiar with their signs and symptoms making it more difficult to reach a correct diagnosis and provide effective treatments.  

To increase knowledge about rare conditions, Osmosis and the National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD) have collaborated on an initiative to bring education and awareness to the public. We are excited to be a part of this initiative because we believe everyone deserves quality health care, no matter how rare their condition.

Zebra of the Week: Adrenal Insufficiency

We live in a world dominated by increasing stress in daily life. Using the adrenal glands (among others), our bodies usually react to various stressors by secreting hormones that activate our fight or flight response. Today’s Zebra, Adrenal Insufficiency is characterized by an inability to secrete adrenal hormones such as cortisol.

It poses a diagnostic challenge, especially in its chronic form, because the symptoms are not specific. Manifestations such as fatigue, nausea, dizziness, and loss of libido are often mislabeled as facts of life or completely different diagnoses by both patients themselves and their physicians.

A special situation called an adrenal crisis can be life-threatening. There are a whole array of potential causes. To learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of Adrenal Insufficiency,  watch the dedicated Osmosis video on Youtube and on Osmosis. 

Meet Lindy

Lindy is a television producer so often encounters high-stress situations. At some point before her diagnosis, her symptoms were so bad that she was contemplating writing a farewell letter to her family because it felt like the end. Luckily, she was diagnosed with Addison’s disease, a form of adrenal insufficiency, and is now rediscovering who she is again. Watch her transformation in the video above.

More Information on Adrenal Insufficiency

Signs & Symptoms, Causes and Diagnosis


Video and Anatomy