Impact of coronavirus disease 2019 on patients with primary adrenal insufficiency: a cross-sectional study

Gregory Knowles, Emily Warmington, Lisa M Shepherd, Jonathan M Hazlehurst, Anne de Bray, Helena Gleeson, Wiebke Arlt, Alessandro Prete*

*Corresponding author for this work

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OBJECTIVE: Patients with primary adrenal insufficiency (PAI) are thought to be particularly vulnerable to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19); however, little is known about its true impact on this group. We assessed morbidity and health promotion attitudes during the pandemic amongst a large cohort of patients with PAI.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional, single-centre study.

METHODS: In May 2020, COVID-19 advice on social distancing and sick-day rules was distributed to all patients with PAI registered with a large secondary/tertiary care centre. A semi-structured questionnaire was used to survey patients in early 2021.

RESULTS: Of 207 contacted patients, 162 responded (82/111 with Addison's disease, AD; 80/96 with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, CAH). Patients with AD were older than those with CAH (median age 51 vs 39 years; P < 0.001) and had more comorbidities (Charlson comorbidity index ≥2 47.6% vs 10.0%; P< 0.001). By the time of the survey, 47 patients (29.0%) had been diagnosed with COVID-19, the second commonest cause of sick-day dosing during the study and the leading trigger of adrenal crises (4/18 cases). Patients with CAH had a higher risk of COVID-19 compared to AD (adjusted odds ratio 2.53 (95% CI 1.07-6.16), P= 0.036), were less inclined to have the COVID-19 vaccine (80.0% vs 96.3%; P = 0.001), and were less likely to have undergone hydrocortisone self-injection training (80.0% vs 91.5%; P = 0.044) or wear medical alert jewellery (36.3% vs 64.6%; P = 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: COVID-19 was a principal trigger for adrenal crises and sick-day dosing in patients with PAI. Despite a higher risk of COVID-19, patients with CAH showed less engagement with self-protective attitudes.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: We conducted a cross-sectional study on a large and well-characterised group of patients with PAI and demonstrated that COVID-19 was a leading cause of morbidity during the early phases of the pandemic. Patients with AD were older and had a greater burden of comorbidity than those with CAH, including non-adrenal autoimmune disorders. However, patients with CAH were more likely to develop COVID-19 and demonstrated reduced engagement with healthcare services and health promotion strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere230122
JournalEndocrine Connections
Issue number8
Early online date30 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jul 2023


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