Adrenal Disorders

Adrenal glands are the triangular–shaped endocrine glands situated on the top of each kidney. These are also known as the suprarenal glands. Adrenal gland dysfunction may occur due to adrenal gland diseases or diseases of the pituitary glands. During adrenal gland dysfunction, there may be a higher or lower release of hormones.


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  • Cushing's Syndrome Management: It is also known as hypercortisolism. It occurs due to the excessive secretion of cortisol by the adrenal glands. Hypersecretion of cortisol may be due to high levels of stress, alcoholism, malnutrition, panic disorders, depression, a high level of emotional stress, and athlete training. The common symptoms of Cushing syndrome are weight gain, purple stretch marks on the abdomen, arms, thighs, and breasts, fatigue, acne, muscle weakness, easy bruising, delayed healing of skin injuries, and fatty deposits, especially between the upper back and shoulder and on the face. The treatment aims to lower the elevated levels of cortisol in the body.
  • Addison's Disease Management: This condition is also known as adrenal insufficiency. It occurs when the adrenal gland produces significantly lower than normal amounts of cortisol and aldosterone. Patients with this condition experience extreme fatigue, salt cravings, loss of appetite, abdominal pain, low blood sugar, depression, joint and muscle pain, irritability, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss. The adrenal insufficiency may be due to autoimmune disease, infections, such as tuberculosis, adrenal gland cancer, and adrenal gland bleeding. Reduced production of hormones by the adrenal glands may also be due to reduced secretion of ACTH from the pituitary gland. The treatment includes the administration of oral corticosteroids.
  • Pheochromocytoma Management: Pheochromocytoma is a condition that involves the development of a noncancerous tumor in the adrenal gland. The tumor releases hormones in patients with pheochromocytoma, resulting in headache, high blood pressure, panic attack symptoms, and sweating. The other symptoms include tremors, a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and pallor. A few patients also experience blurry vision, constipation, weight loss, and anxiety. Surgery for tumor removal is the primary treatment for pheochromocytoma.


Some of the techniques for diagnosing pheochromocytoma are:

  • Laboratory tests:The laboratory tests are recommended to determine the levels of noradrenaline, adrenaline, or the substance produced as a byproduct of adrenal hormones. The laboratory tests include blood tests and 24-hour urine tests.
  • Imaging techniques:If the laboratory tests indicate elevated hormone levels, the doctor may advise the patients to undergo imaging tests. These include MRI, CT scan, PET scan, and M-iodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) imaging.

The hormones released by the adrenal glands are:

  • Cortisol: The function of cortisol is to control the use of fat, carbohydrate, and protein by the body. It also regulates blood pressure, suppresses inflammation, enhances blood sugar levels, and reduces bone formation.
  • Epinephrine (Adrenaline) and Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline): Epinephrine and norepinephrine have similar functions. They increase the force of heart contraction and enhance the heart rate. In addition, they improve the flow of blood to the muscles and brain, relax smooth muscles of the airways, and play a role in glucose metabolism.
  • Aldosterone: It regulates blood pressure and controls the electrolyte levels in the blood, thereby regulating the pH.