Is Adrenal Fatigue Real? Why Adrenal Fatigue Is Misdiagnosed (Or Not Diagnosed)

November 13th, 2016   •   Comments Off on Is Adrenal Fatigue Real? Why Adrenal Fatigue Is Misdiagnosed (Or Not Diagnosed)   
Is Adrenal Fatigue Real? Why Adrenal Fatigue Is Misdiagnosed (Or Not Diagnosed)


Although thousands of people experience a fatigue that is not relieved by a good night’s sleep, there is no scientific evidence yet to support the notion that long-term mental, emotional, physical or infectious stress overwork and deplete the adrenal glands and contribute to developing Adrenal Fatigue. As such most doctors and healthcare professionals do not verify it as a real condition and are not able to test and recognize it.


Where in the past doctors’ most essential diagnostic tools were skills of observation, physical examination and deductive reasoning, now in modern times doctors rely on narrowly interpreted lab tests in combination with a list of numerical diagnoses allowable by insurance companies. As a result drugs and surgery are usually the only therapies offered by modern medicine. If there is no known surgical or drug treatment for the problem, then the condition does not exist.


There are no clear-cut reasons why Adrenal Fatigue is ignored by mainstream medicine, but one prevailing thought is that it has something to do with money.


  1. No money in it for pharmaceutical companies


The rise of the pharmaceutical industry over the last 50 years has had a profound impact and completely altered the practice of medicine and as a result the emphasis in education in medical school. Medical institutions are highly subsidized /sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies, which obviously influences curriculum toward treatment methods that are lucrative to themselves and as such, only drug-related treatments are likely to be pursued (1). In addition, pharmaceutical companies are the leading medical researchers these days and they reserve their research for diseases that can be cured with drugs. Also, most post-med school education is given by drug representatives (2).


These pharmaceutical companies make money by developing and patenting drugs (bio-identical hormones cannot be patented). Even if Adrenal Fatigue were to become more commonly diagnosed, the treatment primarily involves dietary and lifestyle changes and natural therapies, not drugs. Therefore, there is no money in it for pharmaceutical companies.


  1. No ICD code


Another big problem in today’s medical system is the use of ICD’s. These are International Classifications of Disease. In order for doctors to claim payment from insurance companies all patients must be given an ICD code. Without an ICD code insurance companies will not process claims. Adrenal Fatigue is not classed as a disease and therefore does not have an ICD code (3). Every patient needs an ICD code for their medical condition, but if a doctor cannot label you with a code that describes your disease then they will not be paid for seeing you as your insurance will not cover your visit. There is no ICD code for Adrenal Fatigue and the code for Hypoadrenia is usually reserved for Addison’s disease, because this extreme form of adrenal insufficiency is the only form that is acknowledged.


  1. Adrenal Fatigue has many common symptoms


The most common symptom of Adrenal Fatigue is unrelenting fatigue and since fatigue is such a common symptom, Adrenal Fatigue can easily be missed or misdiagnosed by doctors and healthcare professionals.


Not all conventional medical practitioners, healthcare professionals or integrative doctors for that matter are on the same page and have a unified view on the topic of Adrenal Fatigue, amongst them are proponents and opponents of Adrenal Fatigue.


The former claiming it is a valid health condition while the latter accuses the opposing group of having invented a fake disease.


Some arguments of the opponents are:


  • Adrenal Fatigue is a condition that lacks a single unambiguous sign or symptom. Addison´s Disease is widely accepted, but there is no evidence that a subclinical form exists.
  • There is no scientific evidence that indicates that long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress can overwork or deplete the adrenal glands.
  • There’s no entry in Dorland’s Medical Dictionary (one of the largest medical dictionaries in the world), nor does the ICD classify it as a medical condition.


Some arguments of the proponents are:


  • Doctors are being discouraged by insurance companies to diagnose Adrenal Fatigue as there is not much money to be made from treatment of Adrenal Fatigue.
  • Addison’s disease is widely accepted in the medical community, why isn’t a milder form of Adrenal Fatigue possible? Other diseases and conditions are also not binary (hypertension, diabetes and hypothyroidism) and many degrees of dysfunctions are possible in other glands (thyroid, pancreas, pituitary).
  • This is not the first time a certain illness does not fit with the current medical practice. There are many other illnesses that were considered invalid in the past and validated later by conventional medicine, examples are fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and chronic fatigue. Today these are all are accepted conditions.


Fortunately alternative medicine and increasingly more health websites acknowledge the existence of Adrenal Fatigue as a real health condition and thanks to the continuing efforts from doctors and naturopaths such as Dr. James Wilson, Dr. Michael Lam, Dr. Christiane Northrup, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Mehmet Oz and many others there is also increasingly more awareness about this condition in the conventional medical community.


References & Further Reading

  1. Pharmaceutical representatives in academic medical centers. Lurie, Nicole, et al. 1990, Journal of General Internal Medicine, pp. 240-243
  2. Hooked: Ethics, the Medical Profession, and the pharmaceutical industry. Brody, H. 2008, The journal of nucleair medicine
  3. Function of Hypothalamic Adrenal Axis in Patients with Fibromyalgia Syndrome Undergoing Mud Pack Treatment. Bellomotti, S.G. 1998, Acupuncture in medicine , pp. 95-102.
Are You Suffering From Adrenal Fatigue?

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