Adrenal gland disorder symptoms

Updated March 23, 2017

Dysfunction of the adrenal glands can cause adrenal fatigue syndrome and adrenal gland disorder, a condition where the adrenal glands are not able to produce adequate hormones to combat stress and other reactions in the body. Adrenal gland disorders can be a side effect of certain medications, illness or even a nutritionally-deficient diet; there are several symptoms that indicate this condition is present.


Common symptoms of most adrenal gland disorders include lightheadedness; tendency to gain weight; lack of energy in the mornings; difficulty concentrating; poor memory; chronically high stress levels; reduced sex drive; mild depression; dry and thin skin; unexplained hair loss; heart palpitations; dyspepsia; constipation; hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar); food allergies; and high frequency of the flu or infections.

Triggers of Common Symptoms

Some adrenal gland disorders are genetic, while others are triggered by emotional stressors or physical conditions. Common causes of adrenal gland disorders include chronic infections because of a poor immune system; severe inflammation in the body; an unhealthy diet; side effects of certain medications; excess physical activity; and certain diseases. Symptoms may be aggravated from any and all of these triggers at different times of the day, depending on the affected person's health condition.

Types of Disorders and Related Symptoms

There are a few different types of adrenal gland disorders, and these can affect people of all ages. Types of adrenal gland disorders include: Cushing's Syndrome; congenital adrenal hyperplasia; and pituitary tumours. Milder forms of the disorder include adrenal fatigue syndrome (AFS), or adrenal gland overload. Common symptoms of Cushing's syndrome include: insomnia; acne; purple stretch marks across the abdomen; weak bones; thin skin; and hypertension. Common symptoms of congenital adrenal hyperplasia include: hypotension; lack of resistance to cold; weakness; vomiting; and anorexia. Common symptoms of pituitary tumours include: headaches; vision loss; constipation; sexual dysfunction; low blood pressure; and constipation.


Cushing's Syndrome is the result of overproduction of cortisol; this can occur from an adrenal tumour that triggers too much cortisol production on a regular basis. This typically causes symptoms such as muscle and bone weakness; a very round face; obesity; increased thirst and urination; fatty hump between the shoulders; and high blood pressure. Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is a genetic disorder that results in adrenal gland deficiency; this often results in hormone imbalances and the production of excess androgen. Symptoms and effects of this adrenal gland deficiency run from mild to serious; common symptoms include: early signs of puberty; excess facial hair; dehydration; low blood sugar levels; and constant breakouts or acne. Pituitary tumours can trigger overactivity of the adrenal glands, and restrict adequate hormone release. Effects may include extreme exhaustion, bouts of fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and a craving for very salty or very sweet foods.

Treatment Options

There are several different treatments available for people suffering from adrenal gland disorders; these include prescription medications, dietary modifications, lifestyle changes, radiation and surgery. Some conditions require a combination of different treatments. In some cases, the symptoms can be treated with dietary changes and exercise alone. Prescription medication such as corticosteroids and hydrocortisone may be used to treat only severe symptoms. Dietary modifications may include supplements or eating more foods that contain: omega-3s; mineralised salt; probiotics; fibre; and low-glycemic carbohydrates. Caffeine, fermented foods, foods that are high in potassium, and refined sugars need to be avoided, as these can interfere with adrenal gland functioning and make symptoms of the disease worse.

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Sabah Karimi is a professional Web and print copywriter. She specializes in several niches including travel, fashion, beauty, health, fitness, lifestyle and small business. Karimi has an educational background in business administration and marketing from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville.