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Diseases of the adrenal glands: types and causes

The adrenal glands are small paired organs located, as the name suggests, above the upper poles of the kidneys.

Why are adrenal glands needed?
The main task of the adrenal glands is to produce hormones that regulate all vital processes in the body. For example, the hormones glucocorticoids are responsible for metabolism and energy metabolism, mineralocorticoids are involved in water and salt metabolism, androgens and estrogens are sex hormones, adrenaline and norepinephrine are stress hormones.

Causes of adrenal diseases:
excessive production of the hormone ACTH by the pituitary gland, which regulates the adrenal glands (Itsenko-Cushing’s disease);
excessive production of hormones by the adrenal glands themselves (for example, with their tumors);
deficiency of ACTH – pituitary hormone (secondary adrenal insufficiency);
insufficient production of hormones in the adrenal glands themselves due to their damage or absence (primary acute or chronic adrenal insufficiency).
Adrenal Gland Disease Symptoms
The manifestations of adrenal diseases depend on which hormone or hormones are produced in insufficient or excess amounts. For example, an excess of mineralocorticoids causes an increase in blood pressure and a decrease in potassium levels, an excess of sex hormones causes impaired sexual development, excessive facial hair growth, etc. A life-threatening condition is acute adrenal insufficiency, which occurs when there is a sharp decrease or cessation of the production of hormones by the adrenal cortex.

How are adrenal diseases treated?
If you suspect adrenal disease, you should consult an endocrinologist. By analyzing the level of hormones in the blood and urine, the results of special tests and instrumental studies (ultrasound, computed tomography, etc.), the doctor will be able to establish an accurate diagnosis and determine the alleged cause of the disease. With a deficiency of adrenal hormones, patients are often prescribed lifelong hormonal replacement therapy; with excessive production of hormones, an operation may be required – adrenalectomy (removal of the adrenal glands).