Adrenal Disorders


About Adrenal Disorders

Located above each kidney, the adrenal glands produce adrenaline, noradrenaline, cortisol and other hormones to control heart rate, blood pressure and other body functions. Should the adrenal glands produce too much or too little of these hormones, an imbalance results that leads to adrenal disorders. Mercy physicians diagnose and treat adrenal disorders with expertise and compassion. 

Types of Adrenal Disorders

Adrenal Insufficiency

Adrenal insufficiency happens when the body does not make enough cortisol. Cortisol helps the body handle physical stress from illness, injury and other events.

Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency include:

  • Fatigue and muscle weakness that may increase over time
  • Significant weight loss
  • Loss of appetite

Your physician can order a blood test to check your adrenal hormone levels and may recommend imaging exams to look at your pituitary and adrenal glands.

Addison's Disease

Addison's disease is similar to adrenal insufficiency, but in addition to too little cortisol, the adrenal glands also produce too little of the hormone aldosterone. Aldosterone helps the body regulate salt levels and blood pressure. The symptoms of Addison’s disease are the same as adrenal insufficiency; in addition, Addison’s disease may cause darkening of the skin and salt cravings.

Addison’s disease is treated with medications to replace the missing hormones. Most people will need to take medication for the rest of their lives to avoid a severe complication known as an adrenal crisis, which can cause a severe drop in blood pressure and send the body into shock. Your physician can help you learn to manage Addison’s disease and stay healthy during times of stress.

Cushing's Syndrome

Cushing's syndrome is a rare disease caused by too much cortisol. When cortisol production is too high for too long, it can cause problems such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Glaucoma

If Cushing’s syndrome is caused by a pituitary tumor that produces too much cortisol, surgery to remove the tumor is usually recommended.

Adrenal Nodule

Adrenal nodules are growths on the adrenal glands. Most adrenal nodules do not cause symptoms; in fact, the majority of adrenal nodules are found during an examination for another condition.

Adrenal Disorder Diagnosis & Treatment

When an adrenal nodule is found, tests are usually recommended to make sure the nodule is benign (non-cancerous) and that it is not overproducing hormones. These may include blood and urine tests to check for abnormal hormone levels, and imaging exams to look for abnormal growths on the adrenal glands.

Most adrenal nodules are harmless and may simply be monitored to keep track of any changes. However, if your tests find that you’re producing too much of a hormone, or that the nodule may not be benign, additional testing and treatment may be needed.

Your Mercy care team includes specialists in adrenal disorders. We’ll help you understand your condition and create a personalized treatment plan to keep you feeling your best.

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