Comic Strip on Addison’s Disease, the affect it has on the endocrine system, signs/symptoms, and treatments.

Steam Project Abstract

By: William Jarman

I was excited and overwhelmed for this semester’s STEAM project for a variety of reasons. Many of the units covered in the second part of the two semester, human anatomy and physiology course interested me and were pertinent to my career field. These units consisted of the endocrine system, cardiac/circulatory system, and the respiratory system. I decided to dive into the endocrine system to search for a STEAM project for a variety of reasons. The first reason is due to the fact that I am the least familiar with this anatomical system. The second reason is because of a patient I encountered at my work a few summers ago. I decided to draw a comic on Addison’s Disease to illustrate how the disease works and show a treatment plan. 

Two summers ago I was a newly certified medic, working at a fire department on the westside of Fairbanks, Alaska. Our company was dispatched to a hotel for a female complaining of difficulty breathing (a fairly routine advanced life support call out). Upon arrival at our patients room I immediately noticed that the patient was in extreme distress. Green sputum was coming from the patient’s mouth and the patient was in extreme respiratory distress. Over the course of the incident I quickly ruled out a variety of medical emergencies pertaining to the respiratory system; airway obstruction, COPD, anaphylaxis, asthma, CHF, overdose, and anxiety attack. Little did I know at the time but my patient was having an adrenal crisis. With the patient being alone and having difficulty speaking due to respiratory distress, it was hard to obtain an accurate medical history. We were eventually able to figure out that our patient had a rare condition called Addison’s Disease. This was found through a medical bracelet on the patient’s wrist. From here we contacted medical control and administered the patients medication (Solu-Cortef) via IV access. Between supportive airway interventions and medication administration, the patient quickly stabilized and was transported to the emergency room. From this moment on I was fascinated with Addison’s Disease and the effect it had on the human body. 

Addison’s Disease is a unique condition that affects the adrenal glands, one of many glands within the endocrine gland family. Addison’s disease can affect all sexes and all races. It usually has a slower onset that is first caught by symptoms, and then can be diagnosed through labs and tests at the hospital. While there are different types of Addison’s Disease, all variations share the same root problem. This problem is the fact that the adrenal glands have an insufficiency in creating vital hormones. Cortisol and aldosterone are two hormones that the adrenal glands don’t produce in the case of Addison’s Disease. Cortisol affects metabolism, blood sugar levels, inflammation, and the salt-water balance affecting blood pressure. Aldosterone also affects blood pressure, blood volume, and the salt-water balance within the body. For initial symptoms the patient may experience abdominal pain, weight loss, darkening of skin, low blood pressure, fainting, nausea/vomiting, joint/muscle pain, or depression. An adrenal crisis is a medical emergency, during this the patient may experience severe weakness, altered level of consciousness, severe abdominal pain, and hypotension. Respiratory distress can also come into play due to hypocortisolism.   

 

The most common treatment solutions for patients suffering from Addison’s Disease consist of medication therapy. These medications include hydrocortisone (cortef), prednisone, methylprednisolone, or fludrocortisone. These medications play a vital role in boosting deficient cortisol and aldosterone levels. While some of these medications are carried by medics, most are commonly not carried by EMS services/paramedic ambulances however, paramedics can administer the patients prescribed medications depending on local standing orders. Paramedics can also administer Dextrose to boost sugar levels, administer corticosteroids, and administer a saline solution to correct hypotension and replace volume. 

3 Comments

  1. Hi Will,

    I enjoyed reading about your STEAM project! I like how you were able to relate your project on the endocrine system to an experience through your job! This relation proves how important it is to learn about the endocrine system! Your comic strip was very informational: I was able to see what the endocrine glands look like, what hormones are insufficient, the signs and symptoms, and the treatments available. I think it is very important to know how to treat rare conditions such as the Addison’s Disease.

    The endocrine system acts with the nervous system to coordinate and integrate the activity of body cells and influences metabolic activities. Addison’s Disease is a disease that affects the adrenal glands, which are a part of the endocrine system. This disease occurs when the adrenal glands are not producing enough cortisol and aldosterone. Cortisol is a hormone that affects metabolism, blood sugar levels, inflammation, and the salt-water balance which affects blood pressure. Aldosterone affects blood pressure, blood volume, and the salt-water balance. Signs and symptoms can include extreme fatigue, weight loss and decrease of appetite, darkening of the skin, low blood pressure/fainting, nausea/diarrhea/vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle or joint pain, and depression. Treatment options for Addison’s Disease consist of medication therapy. The medication comprises Hydrocortisone, Prednisone, methyl prednisone, and Fludrocortisone. These medications are important for boosting low levels of cortisol and aldosterone.

    Orlin Gologergen
  2. Hi Will,
    I really enjoyed your project! I think it is important that uncommon diseases are spoken about in order to better help those waiting for a diagnosis. I enjoyed your comic because it feels like something that could be used to educate patients on Addison’s syndrome and bring awareness. Like Orlin mentioned; it is important for physicians to be able to accurately diagnose patients with rare diseases.

    Will explained that Addison’s disease is a rare condition that affects the adrenal glands. This means there is an attack against the endocrine system of the patient. Addison’s disease affects the glands that play the role of hormone balancing. The adrenal glands are unable to produce Cortisol and Aldosterone which affects the patients metabolism, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and blood volume.

    A patient diagnosed with Addison’s disease may have symptoms such as: abdominal pain, weight loss, darkening of skin, low blood pressure, nausea or vomiting, joint pain, or depression. When a patient experiences an adrenal crisis they may have severe symptoms such as:severe weakness, altered levels of consciousness, abdominal pain, and hypertension.

    Luckily there are treatments available. Medical intervention allows for the prescription of hydrocortisone, prednisone, methylprednisone, or fludrocortisone. These medications react by increasing the levels of cortisol and aldosterone within the body.

    I enjoyed that you explained that not all forms of emergency services carry the medications required to help a patient in an adrenal crisis. I have very little knowledge of the world that medics and EMS workers live in. It’s interesting how many alternatives you have to be prepared for at all times.
    Thank you for sharing.

    Kyle Swisher
  3. Hey Will, I really liked your project and found it very interesting. I enjoyed hearing about your passion and interest in Addison’s disease and how you had first had experience with it. I also thought that your comic strip was very fun and informational. As the other two people said it is very good and important to discuss and spread awareness about lesser known diseases so that doctors and patients alike are more familiar and aware of them.

    Addison’s disease is a rare illness that can effect anybody. It affects the function of the adrenals. The adrenals are a fundamental part of the endocrine system. The endocrine system controls a wide variety of functions. The disease attacks the adrenals ability to produce and release cortisol and aldosterone. Cortisol regulates metabolism, blood sugar levels, inflammation, and assists in balanced blood pressure levels. Aldosterone also deals with blood pressure but also blood volume.

    Since these hormones are directly affected by the disease a person suffering from Addison’s disease will have symptoms such as decreased metabolism weight loss, joint pain, low blood pressure, abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting.

    The good thing is that there are treatments that can work to increase the amounts of cortisol and aldosterone in the body. this can help neutralize or cancel the effects of Addison’s disease. A few of the names of these drugs are hydrocortisone, prednisone, or fludrocortisone.

    Although Addison’s disease is a rare disease involving the malfunction of the adrenals that can have dangerous implications there are steps and drugs that can be involved to neutralize the situation.

    Jonathan Ebel

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