The adrenal glands are endocrine glands that have the primary function of producing hormones related to the stress response. They produce a number of hormones, the most commonly known of which are adrenalin and testosterone. Problems with the adrenal glands can be caused by a number of conditions and the symptoms vary significantly from cause to cause. Some of the more common adrenal disorders and their symptoms are discussed below.
Cushing's syndrome is a condition in which there is too much cortisol in the body. This can be caused by medication containing cortisol, tumours or genetics. The symptoms include obesity in the torso, high blood pressure, slow growth and skin problems.
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is a condition in which the adrenal glands do not produce sufficient cortisol. It is a genetic disorder caused by a recessive gene that typically must be passed on by both parents. The symptoms include low blood sugar, shortness, low blood pressure, infertility in men and excessive facial hair in women.
Addison's disease is a condition in which the adrenal glands do not produce sufficient levels of all of the adrenal hormones. In this condition, the adrenal cortex is damaged or destroyed entirely by an autoimmune response, cancer, disease or a genetic disorder (in children). Symptoms include weight loss, muscle aches, nausea, abdominal pain, abnormal skin colouration and intolerance of the cold.
Adrenal insufficiency is a condition that is also marked by an underproduction of adrenal hormones. Unlike Addison's disease, adrenal insufficiency is typically caused by the pituitary gland failing to produce sufficient ACTH (a hormone that regulates hormone production in the adrenal glands). Symptoms include hypoglycaemia, dizziness, low blood pressure, diarrhoea and disorientation
Adrenal disorders can be fatal if left untreated. If you suspect you may have a problem with your adrenal glands, seek out the advice of a physician.