What is an Adrenal Gland Disorder? (with pictures)

K T Solis
K T Solis
An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.
An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.

The adrenal glands are important parts of the body that produce crucial hormones that control processes in the body. These hormones are responsible for controlling blood sugar levels, sexual maturation during childhood and puberty, controlling the balance of salt and water in the body, controlling the body's response to stress, and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. When the adrenal glands do not work properly, an adrenal gland disorder results. There are three major types of adrenal gland disorders, namely, pituitary tumors, Cushing's Syndrome, and congenital adrenal hyperplasia. All three disorders require medical treatment in order for the patient's health to improve.

The adrenal glands produce hormones that maintain a healthy pregnancy.
The adrenal glands produce hormones that maintain a healthy pregnancy.

Pituitary tumors are tumors that grow in the pituitary gland, a gland located within the brain that controls most of the other glands in the body. These tumors are usually non-cancerous but interfere with the body's hormones. Pituitary tumors can cause problems with the ability to concentrate and can negatively affect a child's growth and maturation. Symptoms of a pituitary tumor can include vision problems, fatigue, headaches, vomiting, and growth delays.

Symptoms that may indicate an adrenal gland disorder include fatigue, headaches, and blood pressure that is too high or too low.
Symptoms that may indicate an adrenal gland disorder include fatigue, headaches, and blood pressure that is too high or too low.

Cushing's Syndrome is an adrenal gland disorder that occurs when a person has received an overabundance of the hormone called cortisol. This excessive amount of cortisol can come from medication a patient has taken, but it can also result from the body manufacturing too much of the hormone. Common symptoms of Cushing's Syndrome may include a round face, thin arms and legs, delayed growth in children, skin conditions, high blood pressure, depression, or weakness in the bones and muscles.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is another adrenal gland disorder. This condition is the opposite of Cushing's Syndrome. While Cushing's Syndrome is caused by excess amounts of cortisol, congenital adrenal hyperplasia is caused by a deficiency in the cortisol hormone. This particular condition is inherited from parents and varies in symptoms. Some people with mild forms of the disorder may experience excessive facial hair in women, short stature, early puberty, and irregular periods or inability to get pregnant in women.

More serious cases of congenital adrenal hyperplasia can include low blood pressure, low blood sugar levels, and difficulties in retaining salt within the body. Female babies with this disorder may require surgery to correct genital deformities. Men may experience infertility and benign testicular tumors.

Treatment for an adrenal gland disorder depends on the type of disorder present in each patient. Pituitary tumors can be treated through radiation therapy, surgery, medications, or a combination of these methods. Cushing's Syndrome can be treated through medication, surgery, or radiation therapy as well. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia can be treated with medication so that sufficient amounts of cortisol are placed inside the body. Since congenital adrenal hyperplasia cannot be cured, the patient may need to take medication on a regular basis in order for his or her health to improve.

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    • An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.
      An adrenal gland on top of a kidney.
    • The adrenal glands produce hormones that maintain a healthy pregnancy.
      The adrenal glands produce hormones that maintain a healthy pregnancy.
    • Symptoms that may indicate an adrenal gland disorder include fatigue, headaches, and blood pressure that is too high or too low.
      Symptoms that may indicate an adrenal gland disorder include fatigue, headaches, and blood pressure that is too high or too low.