Adrenal Gland Diseases
Addison’s disease (aka chronic adrenal insufficiency) is a rare endocrine disorder in which the adrenal glands have trouble producing enough steroid hormones for proper bodily function. Consequently, most common symptoms can be traced back to a root adrenal hormone; for example, hyponatremia and hyperkalemia are produced due to the lack of aldosterone to encourage reabsorption of sodium and excretion of potassium. This disease has many causes but its overall occurrence in the general population is quite uncommon. The subject is usually predisposed to the disease by one of several possible genetic abnormalities.
The treatment of Addison’s disease usually consists of replacing the hormones that are not being produced, such as hydrocortisone and fludrocortisones. The patient must maintain this medication regimen for life. The dosage may need to be altered if the patient is to undergo surgery, gets pregnant or experiences any other significant stressors in their life.
An adrenal adenoma is a noncancerous tumor within one of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are the small, triangle-shaped organs that sit on top of the kidneys in the back of your upper abdomen. They produce several hormones and chemicals, including estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, cortisone, steroids, adrenalin (epinephrine) and norepinephrine.
The majority of small adrenal adenomas are not dangerous and do not need to be treated. However, in some cases, the tumor may cause the adrenal gland to secrete excessive amounts of one or more of the hormones it produces, leading symptoms to arise. Treatment for those patients may involve medication to counter its effects or a surgical procedure to remove the adrenal gland on which the adenoma has grown.
Conn's syndrome, also known as primary hyperaldosteronism, is a rare condition in which the body produces excessive levels of the hormone aldosterone, which is responsible for regulating sodium and potassium levels in the blood. Causes of this condition include tumors affecting the adrenal gland(s) or hereditary factors. Symptoms of Conn's syndrome may include hypertension, hypokalemia (low levels of potassium in the blood), hypernatremia (excessive levels of sodium in the blood), hyperkaluria (excessive levels of potassium in the urine), and high levels of alkalinity.
Treatment for Conn's syndrome varies depending on its severity. Mild cases of Conn's syndrome can be managed with medications and reducing salt intake levels, while severe cases (such as those caused by tumors) may require surgical removal of the affected adrenal gland(s). Your doctor will develop a customized treatment plan based on your individual condition.
Cushing's syndrome involves an excess amount of cortisol that may develop as a result of a tumor, genetic condition or as a side effect of certain medications. Patients may experience weight gain, thinning skin and excessive sweating as a result.
Hyperadrenalism is a condition in which the adrenal glands are secreting excessive amounts of the hormones that they produce. This may involve an overproduction of androgen hormones, corticosteroids or aldosterone. Excessive production of each of these hormones results in different symptoms that may include facial hair growth, high blood pressure, muscle weakness, hair loss, weight gain and more. A diagnosis is typically made after a physical examination, blood tests and urine tests are completed.
Treatment of hyperadrenalism will vary depending on which hormone is creating the problem as well as its underlying cause and the severity of the symptoms. Some patients respond well to medications that slow the hormone production, while others may surgery to remove one of the adrenal glands.
Hypoadrenalism is a condition caused by underactive adrenal glands. Since the adrenal glands are responsible for the production of several important hormones, hypoadrenalism results in hormonal deficiencies that can potentially be very serious. Some common symptoms of hypoadrenalism are fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness, nausea and loss of appetite. A diagnosis is typically made after a physical examination is conducted and blood tests are performed to check cortisol and aldosterone levels.
Hypoadrenalism is generally treated with medication taken orally. If the underlying problem causing the condition can be resolved, the hypoadrenalism treatment will be short term. However, if it is a permanent condition, life-long medication will be necessary. Patients may require one or more prescription drugs to replace the missing hormones and keep the body functioning properly.