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Treatment for adrenal insufficiency involves hormone replacement or substitution. The specific replacement depends on whether cortisol or aldosterone are both deficient. If the condition is due to an adrenal infection, the affected person may regain some adrenal function when the infection resolves. Even when people have extensive and permanent damage to their adrenal cortex, they should be able to live healthy, relatively normal lives by replacing the missing hormones and observing a few precautions.
In the case of secondary adrenal insufficiency, it is very rare for a patient to respond to treatment if the cause is pituitary damage or disease. However, if the underlying condition can be resolved, such as if the insufficiency is due to corticosteroid therapy, cortisol production may eventually resume.
An adrenal crisis can be life-threatening and is treated with intravenous (IV) injections of glucocorticoids and large volumes of intravenous saline solution with the sugar dextrose. This treatment usually brings rapid improvement. Initiation of treatment as early as possible improves outcomes.
Last Review Date: July 1, 2018