Adrenal glands are tiny glands located in the abdomen, at the top of the kidneys. They are endocrine glands in charge with production of numerous hormones which are of great importance for the entire body. These glands may be affected by a variety conditions which eventually lead to either insufficient production of certain hormones or excessive production of the hormones. The diagnosis of the underlying cause can be rather challenging. Adrenal glands can be affected in both, men and women. Still women tend to develop certain adrenal conditions more comparing to men.
Adrenal Gland Problems in Women
The most common diseases which affect adrenal glands in women are Cushing's syndrome, Addison's disease and hyperaldosteronism.
Cushing's syndrome is a hormone disorder which features with increased levels of cortisone in the blood. This syndrome can occur due to several causes and tumor of adrenal glands is the only one of them. Most commonly benign adenomas produce additional cortisone and this is what leads to specific symptoms and signs of the disease. The symptoms of Cushing's disease include rapid weight gain, particularly of the trunk and face, hyperhidrosis, telangiectasia and acne, thinning of the skin with consequent formation of striae. Patients who are suffering from Cushing's disease complain about weakness of proximal muscles, suffer from hirsutism and baldness. Additional problems include problems with sleeping, reduction in libido, menstrual disorders, and infertility. Women who suffer from this syndrome may develop different psychological disturbances such as psychosis or even depression.
Addison's disease features with insufficient production of glucocorticosteroids. The disease can be easily diagnosed by blood tests and certain imaging methods. The symptoms of Addison's disease may vary a lot. They include fatigue, fever and general weakness of muscles. Patients lose weight, may have problems with appetite, nausea and vomiting. There are also certain changes in patient's personality and mood. Physical examination may detect low blood pressure and specific changes on the skin. Namely, the skin is covered in dark spots which affect all the body parts, not only those exposed to the sun. Hyperpigmentation may also affect mucous membranes.
Hyperaldosteronism is another adrenal condition which commonly affects women. It features with excessive production of hormone aldosterone. Aldosterone regulates level of potassium in the blood and excessive amounts of this hormone lead to drop in potassium. In mild cases the diseases is asymptomatic, while some patients may complain about a range of symptoms which can also occur in other disorders. They include tiredness, headache and increased blood pressure. Hypokalemia and hypernatremia occur as well. Muscles may be weak or spastic. Some patients are very thirsty and urinate a lot. These patients are also prone to metabolic alkalosis and intermittent paralysis.