Female Adrenal Glands Male Adrenal Glands
Adrenal Gland Disorders
Adrenal glands sit above both kidneys and diseases of adrenal gland interfere with several hormone systems. Adrenal diseases can be inherited or develop as a consequence of autoimmune disease, or surgery or cancer.
Adrenal glands produce several major hormones important for coping with physical stresses to body and maintaining adequate blood pressure control, blood volume and salt retention by the body.
The outer layer of adrenal (cortex) produces cortisol and aldosterone hormone that regulate blood pressure, salt retention and general well being. Other cortex hormones are mildly potent male hormone like chemicals. The inner part of adrenal produces adrenaline and noradrenaline hormone.
Over function or under function of adrenal glands
This disorder eventuates as a consequence of hypofunction and under production of cortisol and aldosterone.
There is either withering of the gland causing hypofunction or inflammation and or cancer deposits infiltrating the gland and replacing normal cells with non functioning cells.
Underproduction or cortisol is life threatening presenting with weight loss, fatigue, nausea and low blood pressure. If undiagnosed the low blood pressure can cause organ shutdown and death.
Simple treatment with cortisone tablet or intravenous steroid can restore health quickly. Salt depletion may require a second drug to replenish salt and improve blood pressure.
Over production of cortisol causes Cushings syndrome with multiple symptoms and signs of fatigue, weight gain, thin skin, easy bruising, excess hair and swelling of legs.
This disease can be due to benign tumors (most common) or cancer of the gland. Surgery is the preferred treatment.
Salt wasting can occur due the abnormal hormone production. It can be severe and life threatening but often is mild and associated with male hormone (testosterone) virilising side effects (eg excess hair, acne)
Complex treatment regimes often involving steroid replacement may be required.
Excess Aldosterone Hormone produces high blood pressure and low potassium after (other) due to benign tumor – managed by surgery if single lesion identified.
Benign tumor of this region of adrenal gland overproduces adrenaline and noradrenaline resulting in high blood pressure and symptoms of sweating, flushes and abdominal pain. Treatment involves surgical removal of tumour.
- Various imaging via CT, MRI or nuclear medicine
- Blood tests
- Urine and salivary tests
- Stimulation tests – involving a stimulatory hormone drug to activate or suppress and test adrenal gland capacity