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Addison's disease symptoms - a cross sectional study in urban South Africa

By Ian Louis Ross and Naomi S Levitt


BACKGROUND: Addison's disease is a potentially life-threatening disorder, and prompt diagnosis, and introduction of steroid replacement has resulted in near normal life-expectancy. There are limited data describing the clinical presentation of Addison's disease in South Africa. It is hypothesised that patients may present in advanced state of ill-health, compared to Western countries. Patients A national database of patients was compiled from primary care, referral centres and private practices. 148 patients were enrolled (97 white, 34 mixed ancestry, 5 Asian and 12 black). METHODS: Demographic and clinical data were elicited using questionnaires. Biochemical data were obtained from folder reviews and laboratory archived results. RESULTS: The majority of the cohort was women (62%). The median and inter-quartile age range (IQR) of patients at enrolment was 46.0 (32.0-61.0) years, with a wide range from 2.8-88.0 years. The median and IQR age at initial diagnosis was 34.0 (20.0-45.0) years (range 0.02-77.0) years, indicating that at the time of enrolment, the patients, on average, were diagnosed with Addison's disease 12 years previously. Hyperpigmentation was observed in 76%, nausea and vomiting occurred in more than 40%, and weight loss was noted in 25%. Loss of consciousness as a presenting feature was recorded in 20 %. with a 95% confidence interval [CI] of (14-28%) and shock occurred in 5% CI (1.5-8.5%). Case-finding was recorded at 3.1 per million. CONCLUSIONS: The usual constellation of hyperpigmentation, nausea, vomiting and weight loss suggests Addison's disease, but a significant proportion present with an advanced state of ill-health and Addisonian crises. A lower prevalence rate, compared to Western countries is suggested

Topics: Hydrocortisone, South Africa, Traditional ACTH stimulation test, Vomiting, Nausea, Weight loss, Demography, Syncope
Publisher: Division of Endocrinology & Diabetology
Year: 2013
DOI identifier: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053526
OAI identifier:

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