Have you ever had a viral infection, accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, dizziness, and fatigue? What if it wasn't a virus...and what if it lasted for months...and then it got worse...and nobody could tell you what was wrong with you...
Addison's Disease is caused by a destruction of the Adrenal Glands that sit on top of your kidneys, which then results in a decrease in important hormones (namely Aldosterone and Cortisol). The symptoms that result from a drop in these hormones can mimic a wide a variety diseases or infections, including vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, low blood pressure, and dizziness. In some cases, a darkening of the skin can also be present. The patient is commonly diagnosed with a viral infection like the flu, but as symptoms persist, blood work and diagnostic exams become necessary.
If the attending physician can piece together the puzzle soon enough, a routine injection of Adrenal hormones can relieve the patient of their suffering. However, some cases are extremely difficult to detect, even with the most advanced and sensitive tests available. In these rare incidences, the patient can quickly fall into a psychotic state, accompanied by constant vomiting, volatile drops in blood pressure, decreased kidney function, convulsions, and then death.
Though Addison's can be deadly, if treated in time and properly, patient's can enjoy a normal, fully functional life. Famous Addisonian's include John F. Kennedy, Eugene Merle Shoemaker (the astronomer responsible for discovering the comet Shoemaker-Levy), and possibly Osama Bin Laden (his condition is unconfirmed, but specialist's have noted that he expresses many of the tell-tale symptoms and is rumored to be on medication to control the disease).