Types of Adrenal Gland Disorders: Exploring Adrenal Insufficiency, Cushing’s Syndrome, and Addison’s Disease

Did you know that many vital functions like metabolism, immunity, heart functions, etc. are managed by adrenal glands? This gland is one of the most important glands of the endocrine system and manages many important functions. However, several conditions affect this gland, resulting in too much or too little production of hormones. However, most of them are treatable, some are only manageable and need early attention. Learn about the most common adrenal gland disorders and signs when you should seek professional help in this article. At Doral Health & Wellness, we have all the answers you need.

 

Adrenal Gland disorders

The adrenal gland is one of the main glands in the endocrine system. It is located on the top of your kidneys. It has a small, triangular-shaped adrenal gland, which is also known as a suprarenal gland. It is only 3 inches long but produces very important hormones in the body like cortisol, aldosterone, androgen, and adrenaline. If your adrenal gland is affected, it produces any of these hormones less or more than required, you may experience health problems, including any of these adrenal gland disorders:

  1. Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency): It is a rare autoimmune disease that occurs when the adrenal glands don’t make enough cortisol and aldosterone. It has 3 types and the most common is primary adrenal insufficiency where the adrenals don’t function well to produce cortisol.
  2. Cushing syndrome: This condition happens when your adrenal glands produce too much cortisol due to long-term or overuse of steroid medications, especially glucocorticoids. This medicine is used to treat conditions like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. Certain tumors like pituitary gland tumors, adrenal gland tumors, etc. can also cause Cushing’s syndrome.
  3. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH): This is a genetically inherited condition where your body lacks an enzyme that your adrenal glands need to make hormones like cortisol or sometimes aldosterone. People with CAH mostly suffer from hormonal imbalances for example, they may also have low levels of aldosterone but too much androgen.
  4. Adrenal gland suppression: It is a type of adrenal insufficiency that causes low production of cortisol or sometimes aldosterone due to long-term usage of steroid medications (that act as cortisol in the body) such as prednisone, hydrocortisone, or dexamethasone. These medicines are used to treat certain types of arthritis, severe allergic reactions, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and other conditions.

However, it can be prevented by reducing the dose gradually until you stop the drug completely. This method is called tapering the dose. If you stop your medications suddenly, especially after taking them for several weeks or more, the adrenal glands may not be able to produce steroid hormones in the required quantity for several weeks or even months. It causes health problems due to hormone imbalances until adrenal glands start functioning again normally.

  1. Primary aldosteronism (Conn’s syndrome): This condition happens when the adrenal gland produces too much aldosterone hormone in the body. It is also known as hyperaldosteronism. It may be caused due to a tumor, which affects only one adrenal gland, or causes abnormal growth in both glands, which is called hyperplasia.
  2. Hypoaldosteronism: This condition occurs when your adrenal glands are unable to produce enough aldosterone hormone in the body.
  3. Massive bilateral adrenal hemorrhage (Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome): It is an acute condition that causes adrenal gland failure due to bleeding into the gland. It is mostly linked with a severe infection called sepsis.
  4. Adrenal tumors: Adrenal tumors can be benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous). It is mostly caused by genetic syndromes and mutations. Most tumors are benign. Here are the several types of adrenal tumors, including:
  • Adenomas: The tumors that affect the adrenal cortex are adenomas, which are often benign. However, the doctor may need to remove them so that they don’t interfere with adrenal gland function or reach a certain size.
  • Adrenocortical carcinoma: It is a rare condition where cancer cells affect the cortex, which is the outer part of the adrenal gland.
  • Neuroblastoma: Cancer cells occur in childhood and may begin to affect the medulla, which is the inner part of the adrenal gland.
  • Pheochromocytoma: This condition occurs when a neuroendocrine tumor affects the medulla, the inner part of the adrenal gland. It increases the levels of adrenaline and can become cancerous later on. It also has a high risk of recurrence.

Most tumors don’t occur in the adrenal gland; instead, they often arise from other cancers, such as breast cancer or lung cancer, which spread to the adrenals.

 

When to see a doctor?

You should see your doctor if you have symptoms that concern you, with or without a diagnosis of an adrenal disorder. Some of these symptoms may include:

  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Gaining weight only in your upper body.
  • Feeling so fatigued that you can’t even complete your daily tasks.
  • Being in any type of pain that’s severe or doesn’t stop.
  • Experiencing changes in hair growth (hirsutism).
  • Experiencing skin changes, like bruising easily or developing stretch marks.

Many types of adrenal gland disorders occur in the body. While most are treatable, some are manageable. Timely diagnosis and treatment are the ways to prevent severe complications.

 

Need help with any unusual symptoms that may be linked with adrenal gland disorders, visit our endocrinology clinic in Brooklyn for proper diagnosis and treatment. Call us on +13473845690 and get answers for all your queries. Log on to  www.doralhw.org or visit us at 1797 Pitkin Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11212 to book an appointment with our endocrinologist to get the best treatment. We have the best endocrinologists who treat these kinds of diseases and helpful staff to aid you during your treatment.