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Adrenal Disorders

Mood is affected by certain endocrine glands, and so is your physical health. One of the endocrine glands is actually a pair of glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They are known as adrenal glands, literally taken from the Latin prefix of ad-, meaning extra or in addition to, and the Latin word -renalis, meaning of or related to the kidneys or renal system.

When your health is off-kilter and more tests are needed, a full emotional and physical assessment by your family doctor is necessary. The family doctor may decide to refer you to an endocrinologist for thyroid tests or tests of other endocrine glands. Bloodwork can help find abnormalities in hormone levels and give some clue to the thyroid doctor and your family physician as to what might be causing your symptoms.

Adrenal disorders are not uncommon and often occur in people who are older. If you already have a thyroid condition or another endocrine disorder, there’s a good chance your adrenals are affected too. It helps to know what to look for and how your endocrine and exocrine glands are all related and impacted by each other.

Proper Functioning of Adrenal Glands
Adrenal glands produce adrenaline, the hormone responsible for fight or flight response in humans. When you are extremely angry or just plain terrified and you feel threatened, the adrenal glands quickly begin producing high amounts of adrenaline in response to the situation.

The adrenaline prepares the muscles and blood vessels in your body to react to the stressful situation you are in. You are able to breathe faster, pump more blood through your heart, and get more oxygen to your brain and muscles. It makes you very alert, too.

The adrenal glands are also responsible for the production of cortisol, which affects anger levels and reactions and contributes to the control of blood sugar. Other hormones produced in these two little glands control male and female sex hormones and your sexual drive. Still another hormone controls salt levels in the blood and blood pressure.

When you are feeling sluggish, your blood pressure is off, you can’t seem to breathe right, you have no sex drive or too much sex drive, or you feel like you could run a 2,000-mile marathon on no sleep for several days straight, there might be something wrong with your adrenal glands. Since these glands directly affect the production of sex hormones, thyroid hormones, etc., you can see how your whole body is affected. Hormones all have to be in balance with each other, or your body is thrown off course.

Some Adrenal Gland Disorders


Cushing’s Syndrome
This disorder is marked by unusually high production of cortisol. In fact, the best way to diagnose it is to look for the cortisol levels in the blood. It is often hereditary, too, passing from mother to daughter. While it is rare for boys and men to have Cushing’s, it is not unheard of.Symptoms of Cushing’s include a very round midsection and rapid weight gain in the torso and abdomen, a fatty lump or hump between the shoulder blades, easy bruising, tons of stretch marks, and a very round face, plus rapid mood swings. It is treatable, but Cushing’s can also be fatal.

Addison’s Disease
Addison’s Disease is marked by unusually low levels of many hormones in the blood. The adrenal glands are failing at their job to regulate the other endocrine glands on which they have direct impact. As a result, a person with Addison’s may have low sex drive, an absence of secondary sex characteristics (i.e., doesn’t seem to enter puberty), depression, weight loss or gain that is rapid, loss of body hair, irritability, craving salt or sugar, etc.

Addison’s Disease is also treatable, although it may take some trial and error to get all of your hormones in the right balance with medication. Untreated it can lead to renal failure, hospitalization, and in some cases, death. If you experience fainting, lightheadedness beyond what is acceptable, or any of the other aforementioned symptoms, see a doctor immediately.

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
This disorder is one which you are born with. At some point in your life, you would be diagnosed with it, but on rare occasions it goes undiagnosed until it becomes a major health issue. However, because this disorder directly affects sex organ development, most people are diagnosed from infancy on.

Initially, doctors in the delivery room have to run tests to determine if the baby is one sex or the other. Once tests have shown that the baby was supposed to be female and not male, surgery helps correct the malformations of sex organs and urinary tract issues. Males typically do not have moderate to severe deformities but need to be examined and monitored anyway.

Lack of sex hormones and cortisol are present throughout the developing years. Medication and hormone treatment is necessary to continue normal development. Other endocrine glands impacted by this disorder may need supplemental hormone therapy too.

Cancer can affect any cell and any tissue in your body. Adrenal cancer is cancer of one or both adrenal glands. Removal of the affected adrenal gland or glands early on can be lifesaving. Abnormalities in MRI screenings of the adrenal glands may catch cancer early enough for treatment.

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