Adrenal Disorders

Also known as: adrenal gland disorders.

What are adrenal disorders?

One adrenal gland lies above each kidney. These manufacture a number of hormones that are vital to many bodily functions. For example, they regulate the body’s response to stress, to cold, the heart rate and blood pressure, they manage blood sugar and sodium and potassium salt levels, and regulate sexual maturation during puberty. When the adrenal glands produce too little or too much of one or more hormones significant health problems occur and these conditions are generally known as adrenal disorders.

What causes adrenal disorders? 

The causes of adrenal disorders can vary based on the nature of the disorder. Autoimmune disease, infections, tumors, medications, genetic mutations or problems with other glands like the pituitary gland are common causes of too little hormone being produced. Overproduction of hormones (like Cushing’s disease, hyperaldosteronism) may result from benign (non-cancerous) growths (adenomas) or cancerous tumors in the adrenal or pituitary glands.

What are the symptoms of adrenal disorders?

Symptoms depend vary on whether the adrenal glands or pituitary gland are producing too much or too little hormone and on the specific disorder. Your pediatric Endocrinologist at Nicklaus Children's Hospital will discuss the reasons for your particular child’s symptoms.

Potential symptoms of underproduction of adrenal hormones include fatigue, weight loss, decreased appetite, low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and many other symptoms. Over production may result in obesity, a round or moon shaped face, slow growth, acne, bone and muscle weakness, exaggerated male characteristics (like excessive body hair, baldness, big muscles, faster growth, high blood pressure and signs and symptoms associated with low levels of potassium (weakness, muscle aches and spasms) and many others.

What are adrenal disorders care options? 

Depending on the cause, and whether the problem is underproduction (or functioning) or overproduction of one or more hormones, treatments may include hormone replacement, other medications or surgery.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: October 15, 2021 04:17 PM

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