What is Polyglandular Addison's disease?


Type of Disease: Hormonal disorder
Crazy Because: Can cause instantaneous death from sudden emotional distress
Cure: None, but manageable by medication


In February 2008, media reports swirled around the story of Jennifer Lloyd, a 10-year-old from Prestwich, who is one of only six known sufferers in the U.K. of polyglandular Addison's disease. Addisonís disease is a hormonal disorder named after Dr. Thomas Addison who first described the disease in 1855.

The polyglandular form is much rarer than the ordinary disorder, leaving affected patients literally unable to produce adrenaline in response to stress. Adrenaline, or epinephrine, is the "fight or flight" hormone that prepares the body for action. Without adrenaline, the bodyís organs cannot respond to stress and instead go into shock and shut down, leaving those affected critically ill. Patients such as Jennifer require constant attention and steroidal medication just to live out their daily lives.

"Something as simple as walking the dog can be a worry," Jenniferís mother told the BBC.

In Jenniferís case, even watching a movie, playing sports or dancing requires strict supervision in case she becomes overly excited. Despite the mundane outlook for Jennifer and other patients with this crazy disease, most can lead normal lives with the help of medication. //Jessica Adams