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What is Adrenal Disease?

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Adrenal Disease related image Photo: Getty Images

Your adrenal glands sit on top of your kidneys. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM), ʺadrenal glands secrete hormones which help regulate metabolism and supplement other glands.ʺ The UMM website also stated ʺadrenal glands produce hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, steroids, cortisol, and cortisone, and chemicals such as adrenalin (epinephrine), norepinephrine, and dopamine. When the glands produce more or less hormones than required by the body, disease conditions may occur.ʺ

Three different types of hormones are released by the adrenal glands. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development website stated ʺthese hormones control many important functions in the body.ʺ

These include:

• Maintaining pregnancy
• Regulating the balance of salt and water
• Maintaining metabolic processes, such as managing blood sugar levels and regulating inflammation
• Initiating and controlling sexual maturation during childhood and puberty
• Controlling the "fight or flight" response to stress

The website also stated, ʺthe adrenal glands are also an important source of sex steroids, such as estrogen and testosterone.ʺ

Adrenal disease or adrenal disorders include:

• Addison’s disease which is chronic is when your body does not secrete cortisol and aldosterone
• Cushing’s syndrome which is when your body produces too much cortisol
• Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) which is when your body does not produce enough cortisol and is often accompanied by other hormone imbalances
• Hyperaldosteronism which is when your body produces too much aldosterone
• Pituitary tumors which occur when a tumor grows on the pituitary gland, preventing the production and release of hormones from the adrenals.

According to the National Adrenal Disease Foundation, aldosterone ʺis responsible for sodium and potassium balance, which then directly controls water balance to maintain appropriate blood pressure and blood volume.ʺ Also, the Foundation stated ʺcortisol mobilizes nutrients, modifies the body's response to inflammation, stimulates the liver to raise the blood sugar, and also helps to control the amount of water in the body.ʺ

Treatment for Addison’s disease includes oral hydrocortisone or cortisone acetate prescriptions to replace cortisol. To replace aldosterone, you will be prescribed fludrocortisone (Florinef®).

Depending on the Cushing’s syndrome cause you may receive medication. Sometimes Cushing’s syndrome is treated with a combination of treatments including radiation, surgery and oral medications.

People with congenital adrenal hyperplasia may only need to be treated with hormone replacements when they are sick while others need daily medication.

Hyperaldosteronism treatment includes removal of any tumors and antihypertensive medication. If you have bilateral hyperplasia you will be treated with spironolactone (Aldactone), eplerenone (Inspra) or amiloride (Midamor).

Pituitary tumors are treated with a combination of treatments. Treatments may include medication, surgery, radiation therapy or microsurgery.

If you are interested in an adrenal disease support group, the following is a link for support groups in the U.S. and Canada:


Adrenal Gland Disorders. NICHD - The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Official Home Page. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/Adrenal_Gland_Disorders.cfm

Adrenal Gland Disorders: MedlinePlus. National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/adrenalglanddisorders.html

Adrenal gland hormone secretion. University of Maryland Medical Center | Home. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from http://www.umm.edu/imagepages/8719.htm#ixzz1h7I2k6Pt

Cushing's Disease. National Adrenal Disease Foundation. Retrieved December 20, 2011, from http://www.nadf.us/diseases/cushings.htm

Reviewed December 21, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Adrenal Disease

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