The next time you are sitting in a garden, or on a park bench … admiring the beauty … soaking-up the warmth of early Spring … look around and see if you can spot a butterfly. Watch them as they glide through the air … fluttering from one flower to the next … teasing your senses … almost daring you to follow them. Then, try to take note of how many — if any — are blue. As strange as it may sound, blue butterflies are rare. The Palos Verdes Blue is the rarest butterfly in the world. Perhaps, this has helped to make blue butterflies the perfect symbol for a lot of things including Addison’s Disease? Approximately, 40-60 people out of every million are diagnosed with Addison’s. It too is rare and deserves our attention. Since April is Addison’s Disease Awareness Month, there is no better time to start a discussion …
Addison’s, also known as Adrenal Insufficiency Disorder, is the result of severe or total deficiency of the hormones that are made in the Adrenal cortex. The Adrenal glands, located above each kidney, are two endocrine (hormone producing) glands that function as one. Addison’s effects both genders, equally. It discriminates against no one. Onset of the disease usually occurs between 20-50 years of age. However, young children and teens have also been diagnosed. And Addison’s can be life-threatening.
The symptoms usually develop slowly, but they should never be ignored:
- Hyperpigmentation of the skin
- Severe fatigue
- Unintentional weight loss
- Gastrointestinal issues, i.e. nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Fainting or dizziness
- Muscle and joint pain
- Salt cravings
If you, or a loved one, has experienced any of these symptoms, you should see your physician immediately. Early diagnosis is crucial to a patient’s quality of life, even years after the disease first presents itself.
Simple tests, along with a discussion of your medical history, are used to make the diagnosis. Treatment for Addison’s will include Hormone Replacement Therapy to correct levels in the patient’s body. This may be administered orally, or by injection. Sodium intake is also important, especially if it is hot weather … rigorous exercise is planned … or stomach issues are present.
April is Addison’s Awareness Month. So, read about it. Talk about it. Google it. Help others to be more informed. Addison’s patients are just like everyone else. They have dreams, goals, jobs and plans. They go to school, work and marry. They enjoy the same things that the rest of us do, i.e. movies, sports, shopping, music, painting, travel, etc. Illness does not define them. It is just part of who they are. And they are capable of great things. One of them became the 35th President of the United States!
Chronic illness, if anything, teaches patience and perseverance. Addison’s patients know this. They live by it. And they have normal life expectancy. So, please, treat them normally. They are our loved ones, friends, neighbors and co-workers. They just have Addison’s. They manage their condition. They live their lives. And if we can offer a little encouragement … a smile … some support … it’s appreciated. Understanding, like acceptance, matters.
Remember those butterflies? Each one goes through four life stages, before it gets its wings. Yet, the end result is beautiful. The next time you see one, whether it is blue or not, think about Addison’s Disease. Then, spread the word. Awareness is priceless!
*Photo by Ashley Rich on Unsplash