Addison’s Disease and Diabetes

An article from the February 1997 Newsletter:

Several of our members not only have Addison’s disease but have to manage with Diabetes as well. One of our members has just had her daughter diagnosed with insulin -dependent diabetes. According to Diabetes Australia an estimated 650,000 Australians have diabetes and almost 50% of these people do not know they have it. Patients with autoimmune Addison’s disease have a higher incidence of associated autoimmune diseases than the general population.

Don’t panic, the 1994 survey of Addison’s Patients in the Netherlands found a very low incidence of type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus. Out of the 83 patient with autoimmune Addison’s disease only one patient had type 1 diabetes! The fact that insulin-dependent diabetes occurs less frequently in The Netherlands than in the USA or other Scandinavian countries, could not fully explain this low result. However, it should be noted that 34 patients reported the incidence of one or more autoimmune disorders in their family. Of these, 6 had other family members with Addison’s disease, while there were 31 reports of family member’s with Diabetes mellitus (this includes both type 1 and type 2).

So What Should You Look Out For?

Insulin Dependent Diabetes (type 1) usually affects children and young adults. The main symptoms are:

  • excessive thirst,
  • constant urination,
  • unexplained weight loss,
  • irritability,
  • weakness and fatigue

A member who’s 9 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes said, "It all happened so quickly". Within a week her daughter had a dramatic weight loss and was extremely tired. Apparently her daughter was drinking a lot but the family did not notice this at the time. She said, after exercising at school, her daughter started to pant and the panting did not stop, her skin had a blue tinge to it and within twelve hours she had started to slip into a diabetic coma. A sugar test was finally done and diabetes diagnosed. This member suggests if you or your children have any of these symptoms, insist on a simple urine sugar test. If this test was done earlier her daughter would not have had to be rushed to Sydney in a helicopter.

Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes (type 2) usually occurs after the age of 30 and the symptoms are the same as for type 1 diabetes but can also include:

  • Blurred vision,
  • Tingling, numbness in feet,
  • Skin infections, slow healing,
  • Excessive weight,
  • Tiredness
  • Family history of diabetes

One of our member’s who has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes has a family history of Diabetes, was drinking heaps of water, having to go to the toilet a lot and as a result was suffering from disturbed sleep. These symptoms have settled down now she is on a sugar free diet.


Managing with Diabetes and Addison’s Disease.

The member’s I spoke to with both Diabetes and Addison’s Disease all have thyroid problems as well. One member who is insulin dependent said it was important to be organised. She has found the cortisone tends to upset her sugar reading so she has to take the cortisone an hour before she tests her sugar levels, has the insulin and her meals. She does not take Florinef and manages on only 18mgs of Hysone a day. She feels the main thing is to make the most of your ‘good days’. Walking and water aerobics help to keep her sugar levels down.

Another member had Addison’s Disease for several years before she started to have Hypoglycaemic attacks in the afternoons: very sleepy, had ringing in her ears, sweating profusely with reduced concentration. She was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes but manages to work and maintain a very busy social life. She is even planning a holiday to Turkey later this year! A positive attitude, daily exercise and diet seem to be the key to her success. She has 5mgs Prednisone in the morning and 2.5mgs at 5.30pm and takes half a Florinef daily.