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Adrenal Gland – Function, Location, Problems, Treatment

The adrenal glands are a component of the endocrine system and they are also known as suprarenal glands. The glands’ outer part is made up of connective tissues that send thin fibers into the glandular tissue in the gland. The glandular part is known as parenchyma and is divided into the cortex and medulla. The cortex part of the adrenal gland secretes hormones known as corticosteroids and they include mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids. These hormones perform different functions in body such as helping in responding to stress and regulating salt and water balance. They also help in using proteins, fats and carbohydrates.

On the other hand, medulla part of the adrenal gland secretes adrenalin and noradrenalin. These two hormones are also known as epinephrine and norepinephrine respectively. The two hormones are involved in the fight or flight response mechanism of the body. Epinephrine or adrenalin helps increase the heart rate and facilitates blood flow by increasing the force of heart contractions. It also helps in converting of glycogen to glucose in the liver.

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Norepinephrine or noradrenalin has strong effects on vasoconstrictive activities or the narrowing of blood vessels and this helps increase blood pressure. Adrenal glands work together with hypothalamus and pituitary glands in a complex process, which helps in synthesis and secretion of different hormones that regulate the body metabolism, and blood chemicals as well as emotional stress responses, and physical development.

Various adrenal gland diseases and conditions

There are various conditions of the adrenal gland, which affects its function as well as the function of other related glands and organs. Improper functioning of adrenal gland is caused by many aspects and has varying symptoms depending on the cause. Overproduction of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, leads to Cushing’s syndrome. The Cushing’s syndrome may also occur due to problems in pituitary gland. When the there is abnormality within the pituitary gland, it may prod the adrenal gland to produce excess of cortisol.

Similarly, when the body produces excess of aldosterone, it leads to high blood pressure. Hyperaldosteronism is a condition caused by overproduction of aldosterone, a hormone that inhibits the level of sodium excreted in urine and helps maintain blood volume and pressure.

Another condition of adrenal glands is the Addison’s disease. This is also known as adrenal insufficiency and occurs if the adrenal gland is unable to synthesize enough hormones to help in the endocrine system functionality. Addison’s disease is caused by many conditions, which damage the areas of the gland, which produce hormones.

Moreover, adrenal gland can be infested by cancer growth. Although adrenal cancers are rare, they can affect the levels of adrenal hormones and in most cases, they increase the production of hormones. Another condition of the adrenal glands is the pheochromocytoma. This is also a rare condition and manifests in form of a benign or non-cancerous growth within the internal portion of the gland. This tumor leads to increased high blood pressure in the body.

What are the causes of adrenal gland disorders?

Most of the adrenal gland disorders lead to production of excess hormones and they are mainly caused by benign growth and tumors within the gland. These conditions are not hereditary and the cause of the tumors is not well known. Other problems may arise from interrelating glands like the pituitary gland.

Cortisol overproduction may arise when problems within the pituitary gland overstimulates adrenal glands to produce excess hormones. This Cortisol overproduction may also arise when there are problems within the adrenal glands such as adrenal gland tumors. Other problems, which could lead to this condition, are such as steroid use and development of tumors on other endocrine glands and other parts of the body.

Although pheochromocytoma is uncommon, it is generally caused by benign tumors. It may also occur due to growth of tumors in the core, medullar of the adrenal gland. Similarly, hyperaldosteronism symptoms occur due to hyperplasia or excess growth in the adrenal glands.

Moreover, Addison’s disease arises when the adrenal gland is damaged or becomes dysfunctional as a result of an autoimmune disease, or infections such as tuberculosis and HIV. Severe bleeding and tumors are other causes of Addison’s disease, which affects the function of adrenal gland.

Treatment of adrenal gland disorders

Mild adrenal gland disorders may not need treatment but there are times when the complications can be fatal. High blood pressure or diabetes may arise due to adrenal gland problem and treatment is required to control the blood pressure and bring the adrenal gland to its normal function. Tumors on the other hand, may be surgically removed. Adrenal cancer could be treated with chemotherapy medication. Hormone therapy may be administered alongside the chemotherapy in order to help correct hormonal imbalances. Most of the adrenal gland disorders treatments are successful especially if the complications are identified in advance.

In essence, although most symptoms of adrenal gland disease may not be severe, other systems in the body can be affected and this can even lead to life threatening conditions particularly if they affect the electrolyte balance. Complications of adrenal gland can lead to damage of other internal organs like brain, kidney, and heart. They can also lead to heart attack or myocardial infarction as well as stroke. You should consult a doctor if you suspect that you have adrenal gland problem.

Adrenal Gland Pictures

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