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Disease Profile

Secondary adrenal insufficiency

Prevalence estimates on Rare Medical Network websites are calculated based on data available from numerous sources, including US and European government statistics, the NIH, Orphanet, and published epidemiologic studies. Rare disease population data is recognized to be highly variable, and based on a wide variety of source data and methodologies, so the prevalence data on this site should be assumed to be estimated and cannot be considered to be absolutely correct.


US Estimated

Europe Estimated

Age of onset





Autosomal dominant A pathogenic variant in only one gene copy in each cell is sufficient to cause an autosomal dominant disease.


Autosomal recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of each gene of the chromosome are needed to cause an autosomal recessive disease and observe the mutant phenotype.


dominant X-linked dominant inheritance, sometimes referred to as X-linked dominance, is a mode of genetic inheritance by which a dominant gene is carried on the X chromosome.


recessive Pathogenic variants in both copies of a gene on the X chromosome cause an X-linked recessive disorder.


Mitochondrial or multigenic Mitochondrial genetic disorders can be caused by changes (mutations) in either the mitochondrial DNA or nuclear DNA that lead to dysfunction of the mitochondria and inadequate production of energy.


Multigenic or multifactor Inheritance involving many factors, of which at least one is genetic but none is of overwhelming importance, as in the causation of a disease by multiple genetic and environmental factors.


Not applicable



Adrenal insufficiency is an endocrine disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough of certain hormones. Secondary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the pituitary gland (a pea-sized gland at the base of the brain) fails to produce enough adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), a hormone that stimulates the adrenal glands to produce the hormone cortisol. The lack of these hormones in the body can be caused by reduction or cessation of corticosteroid medication, the surgical removal of pituitary tumors, or changes in the pituitary gland.[1] Symptoms of secondary adrenal insufficiency may include severe fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle weakness, irritability, and depression.[2] Treatment includes replacing the hormones that the adrenal glands are not making. The dose of each medication is adjusted to meet the needs of each affected individual.[1]


Support and advocacy groups can help you connect with other patients and families, and they can provide valuable services. Many develop patient-centered information and are the driving force behind research for better treatments and possible cures. They can direct you to research, resources, and services. Many organizations also have experts who serve as medical advisors or provide lists of doctors/clinics. Visit the group’s website or contact them to learn about the services they offer. Inclusion on this list is not an endorsement by GARD.

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      Learn more

      These resources provide more information about this condition or associated symptoms. The in-depth resources contain medical and scientific language that may be hard to understand. You may want to review these resources with a medical professional.

      Where to Start

        In-Depth Information

        • The Merck Manual for health care professionals provides information on Secondary adrenal insufficiency.
        • PubMed is a searchable database of medical literature and lists journal articles that discuss Secondary adrenal insufficiency. Click on the link to view a sample search on this topic.


          1. Adrenal Insufficiency and Addison's Disease. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). May 14, 2014; https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/endocrine/adrenal-insufficiency-addisons-disease/Pages/fact-sheet.aspx. Accessed 8/25/2015.
          2. Margulies P. Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency. National Adrenal Diseases Foundation. https://www.nadf.us/adrenal-diseases/secondary-adrenal-insufficiency/. Accessed 8/25/2015.