Partially compensated hypoadrenalism presenting with persistent skin pigmentation.


A 33-year-old female presented in 1966 with striking pigmentation, typical of Addison's disease, and amenorrhea. Endocrine assessment then showed normal basal serum cortisol and urinary hydroxysteroid levels, but serum cortisol did not respond to stimulation with either exogenous ACTH or lysine vasopressin. Steroid replacement treatment was started. Treatment was discontinued by the patient on her own initiative and after some yr she was lost to follow-up. Reassessment in 1986 showed a pigmented patient who had continued in good health. She had a normal basal serum cortisol level with circadian variation. Plasma ACTH levels were high but showed diurnal rhythmicity and suppressed incompletely with 2 mg or 8 mg of dexamethasone/24 h. Plasma aldosterone levels were normal and showed appropriate postural changes, but plasma renin levels were high. This patient has an immunological profile of autoimmune disease with positive adrenal, thyroid microsomal and gastric parietal cell antibodies with a history of a premature menopause which may also be of autoimmune origin. She has been seen over a 20-yr period and despite her appearance still has no biochemical evidence of glucocorticoid or mineralocorticoid deficiency. It is suggested that the patient had compensated hypoadrenalism, with serum cortisol levels maintained in the normal range by high plasma ACTH levels and serum aldosterone levels maintained by high renin levels. The long term result of the high ACTH levels was increased skin pigmentation.

Cite this paper

@article{Whitehead1989PartiallyCH, title={Partially compensated hypoadrenalism presenting with persistent skin pigmentation.}, author={Esme M. Whitehead and A . Brew Atkinson and D. R. Hadden and Joan A. Weaver and Brian F. Sheridan}, journal={Journal of endocrinological investigation}, year={1989}, volume={12 3}, pages={187-91} }