Medpho Team April 27, 2023

What are adrenal glands? Its function, causes and symptoms.


Your adrenal glands are endocrine glands situated on top of your kidneys, producing many vital hormones, including cortisol, aldosterone and adrenaline. The adrenal hormones help regulate numerous internal processes, including metabolism, blood pressure and your body's reaction to stress.

What Are Adrenal Glands?

The two tiny organs known as your adrenal glands are situated above each kidney. The adrenal glands make various hormones you need to survive and be healthy. Hormones are molecules that circulate in your bloodstream and regulate various parts of your bodywork.
The adrenal glands produce the hormones cortisol, adrenaline, aldosterone, and noradrenaline. They also have hormones your body uses to create sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone). All of these hormones do many crucial tasks, including:

  • Regulating blood sugar levels and converting food into energy
  • Balancing water and salts
  • Maintaining a normal blood pressure
  • Taking care of disease and stress
  • Determining the age and rate of sexual development in children
  • Assisting with pregnancy

What Do Your Adrenal Glands Do?

At the top of each kidney, you have one triangular-shaped adrenal gland. An outer adrenal cortex is a component of each adrenal gland. Aldosterone and cortisol are two steroid hormones in charge of manufacturing. In addition, each gland has an inner adrenal medulla that makes a number of other hormones, such as adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Aldosterone controls the potassium and sodium levels in the body, which regulates your blood pressure. Cortisol helps control how you respond to stress by working with adrenaline and noradrenaline. Your blood pressure, sugar levels, and metabolism are also all regulated by cortisol.
The adrenal glands, another part of your endocrine system, control your adrenal glands. Your pituitary gland, which lies inside your head, is the main controller of your endocrine glands. The amount of hormones your pituitary gland instructs your adrenal glands to produce might be disrupted by abnormal signals. They may create too little or too much hormone as a result. Hormonal disorders may develop. As a result, leading to a range of symptoms and medical issues.

What Are Adrenal Gland Disorders?

Your body creates an excess or insufficient quantity of one or more hormones when you have an adrenal gland problem. Your problem's nature and how much it affects your body's hormone levels will determine your symptoms.

There are many different types of adrenal gland disorders, including:

  • Addison's Disease : A condition in which the adrenal glands do not produce adequate cortisol.
  • Cushing's Syndrome : A condition caused by excess cortisol in the body, often from taking steroids for a long time.
  • Aldosterone-producing Adenoma: A benign (non-cancerous) tumour that produces excessive aldosterone may seriously raise blood pressure.
  • Hereditary Paraganglioma-pheochromocytoma : A hereditary disorder results in several tumour forms producing hormones like adrenaline. Some tumours may develop into cancer.
  • Adrenal Gland Cancer :Cancerous tumours, such as neuroblastoma and adrenocortical carcinoma.
  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) : A group of hereditary disorders where the adrenal glands don't produce enough cortisol. The most prevalent type is a 21-hydroxylase deficiency (also called CAH1). In the US, newborns get a blood test to determine if they have CAH. People born with CAH may not have symptoms until childhood or later in life.


What Are the Signs Symptoms of Adrenal Gland Disorders?

Adrenal gland disorders can cause the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Sweating 
  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Increased desire for salt
  • Low sugar levels
  • Loss or increase of weight
  • Hypotension, often known as low blood pressure
  • Irregular period cycle
  • On your skin, there are dark patches
  • Muscle and joint ache
  • Weight loss or gain

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What Causes Adrenal Gland Disorders?

The cause of adrenal gland disorders depends on the type of disorder you have. Several factors include:

  • Medicines including steroids
  • A problem in another gland, like the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland secretes hormones that impact on how the adrenal glands function.
  • Gene mutations- The adrenal glands may produce too few or too many hormones as a result of these alterations.
  • Infections

How Are Adrenal Gland Disorders Diagnosed?

Your doctor will probably perform blood and imaging tests to diagnose adrenal gland disorders. They will usually start by ordering blood tests. These tests can be used to evaluate your levels of:

  • Adrenal hormones
  • Pituitary hormones
  • Glucose
  • Potassium
  • Sodium

If they assume you have an adrenal gland disorder, they might order imaging tests next. They can use MRI, ultrasound, and X-ray imaging to create pictures of your adrenal and pituitary glands. This can assist them in detecting possible tumours, deterioration of your endocrine tissues, and other disease-related symptoms.

How Are Adrenal Gland Disorders Treated?

If you are detected with an adrenal gland disorder, your doctor will recommend a course of treatment to help your adrenal glands function correctly again. They will likely prescribe hormone replacement therapy if you have a low adrenal function, such as that caused by Addison's disease. They may also recommend hormone replacement medications and radiation treatment if your glands are overproducing a hormone.

For some adrenal disorders, surgery is an additional treatment option. Surgery may be recommended by your healthcare professional if:

  • You have cancerous tumours that can be removed.
  • You have tumours on your pituitary or adrenal glands.
  • Suppressive hormones fail

During treatment, your doctor will need to perform your blood periodically to check your hormone levels. Since your adrenal glands are connected to other organs in your endocrine system, your doctor will likely check for symptoms of disease in your pancreas, sex organs, thyroid gland, and pituitary gland too.


Your adrenal glands produce numerous important hormones that are required for everyday bodily functions. If you have any adrenal disorder related symptoms or want to know if you have any risk factors for developing an adrenal condition, do not be afraid to consult your healthcare provider. To assist you, they are there.

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