Addison's disease (AD) is a rare endocrine condition.
We aimed to evaluate clinical, immunologic, adrenal imaging, and genetic features in 633 Italian patients with AD followed up since 1967.
Adrenal cortex autoantibodies, presence of other autoimmune and nonautoimmune diseases, nonadrenal autoantibodies, adrenal imaging, and genetic profile for HLA-DRB1 and AIRE were analyzed.
A total of 492 (77.7%) patients were found to be affected by autoimmune AD (A-AD), 57 (9%) tuberculous AD, 29 (4.6%) genetic-associated AD, 10 (1.6%) adrenal cancer, six (0.94%) post-surgical AD, four (0.6%) vascular disorder-related AD, three (0.5%) post-infectious AD, and 32 (5.1%) were defined as idiopathic. Adrenal cortex antibodies were detected in the vast majority (88–100%) of patients with recent onset A-AD, but in none of those with nonautoimmune AD. Adrenal imaging revealed normal/atrophic glands in all A-AD patients: 88% of patients with A-AD had other clinical or subclinical autoimmune diseases or were positive for nonadrenal autoantibodies.
Based on the coexistence of other autoimmune disorders, 65.6% of patients with A-AD were found to have type 2 autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome (APS2), 14.4% have APS1, and 8.5% have APS4. Class II HLA alleles DRB1*03 and DRB1*04 were increased, and DRB1*01, DRB1*07, DRB1*013 were reduced in APS2 patients when compared with controls. Of the patients with APS1, 96% were revealed to have AIRE gene mutations.
A-AD is the most prevalent form of adrenal insufficiency in Italy, and ∼90% of the patients are adrenal autoantibody-positive at the onset. Assessment of patients with A-AD for the presence of other autoimmune diseases should be helpful in monitoring and diagnosing APS types 1, 2, or 4 and improving patients' care.