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Endocrine Diseases: Adrenal Glands

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As we all know, juvenile diabetes is a disease that affects the endocrine system. That is, juvenile diabetes affects the hormones that produce insulin in the body, making it impossible for diabetics to produce insulin on their own. However, there are many other diseases that affect the endocrine system as well.

The secretion of hormones is the measure of all endocrine disorders, as this is the main job of the endocrine system. If hormones are not being secreted into the body to fulfill various jobs, then there is an endocrine disorder (Source: Merck). The first area that I would like to explore is the adrenal glands.

According to The University of Maryland Medical Center, the function of the adrenal glands is to work with other glands in the body to produce hormones such as hydrocortisone, which controls the body’s use of fat; corticosterone, which affects the immune system; aldosterone, which maintains levels of sodium in the body; norepinephrines, the hormones that cause adrenaline rushes; and epinephrines, the hormones that controls blood pressure. These are important hormones that can be negatively impacted by disorders in the adrenal glands (http://www.umm.edu/endocrin/adrengl.htm).

The major diseases associated with the adrenal glands are Addison’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome.

Addison’s disease is a rare disorder caused by an underactive adrenal gland. The cause of the disease is unknown, but what is known is that the body produces insufficient amounts of the hormone corticosteroid. As a result of insufficient production, the body reacts by elevating levels of sodium while retaining potassium, causing patients to become dehydrated.

The patient may also become very sick during times of increased stress, because this hormone helps the body fight off infection. Addison’s disease can have many symptoms and can only be determined through blood tests, kidney function tests, and a doctor’s examination. For more information, please visit http://www.umm.edu/endocrin/addison.htm.

Cushing’s syndrome is essentially the opposite of Addison’s disease. The adrenal glands overproduce hormones such as corticosteroids, androgenic steroids and aldosterone. The pituitary gland plays a large role in Cushing’s syndrome, but the syndrome affects any parts of the body.

There are many symptoms to this syndrome that are similar to many other diseases including cancer, high blood pressure, anxiety and obesity, so it is important to speak to a medical professional before exploring treatment options. Cushing’s syndrome can be “cured” in many ways, unlike juvenile diabetes or Addison’s disease. Surgery may be necessary in some cases, but radiation, chemotherapy and hormone-inhibiting drugs have been used to treat the syndrome. For more information, please visit http://www.umm.edu/endocrin/cushing.htm.

Add a Comment2 Comments


Thanks so much for such an informative and well-researched article. So many of us are working to understand our hormones and how they work these days, and there is a maze of information out there. I will look forward to more of your posts on other hormones!

August 17, 2009 - 9:13am

My son has a condition called Adrenoleukodystrophy. It is also known as that Lorenzo's Oil disease. He is 4 and a half.. I am looking for anyone like him and me.

August 15, 2009 - 1:52pm
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