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Adrenal Glands

The adrenal glands in humans are triangular-shaped glands located on top of the kidneys. They belong to a group of endocrine glands and are in charge of production of many hormones. Some of the hormones are produced by cells located in the cortex of the adrenal glands while others are synthesized in the medulla. Cortisol, DHEA and some sex hormones are produced in the cortex and adrenaline is produced in the adrenal medulla.

There are many conditions associated with an inadequate production of certain adrenal hormones. Therefore, there are many symptoms and signs of potential adrenal gland problems. They actually depend on the very adrenal hormone which is either being synthesized in excessive amounts or it is not synthesized at all. The excess or lack of certain adrenal hormones is always accompanied by specific symptoms and signs and this makes it easier to identify the actual problem.

Some Symptoms and Signs of Adrenal Gland Problems

Permanent tiredness and fatigue are one characteristic of certain adrenal conditions. The person may complain about fatigue even though he/she get plenty of sleep and eat right. Fatigue is a consequence of insufficient function of adrenal glands. This is, for example, typical for Addison's disease, chronic adrenal condition which develops due to insufficient production of steroid hormones by the adrenal glands.

Feminization is another potential symptom of improper adrenal function. This condition affects boys after they have reached puberty. Normal male characteristics are replaced with female characteristics such as development of breasts and loss of body hair. The condition may be caused by a tumor in the adrenal glands that is hormonally active.

Virilization, on the other hand, affects women who have already reached puberty. The condition features with excessive growth of hair, deepening of the voice and shrinking of the breasts. Even menstrual periods become irregular. Similarly to feminization, virilization can be caused by the presence of a hormonally active tumor in the adrenal glands. Virilization also affects people suffering from Cushing's syndrome a condition that may be caused by hyperproduction of cortisol or ACTH. There are several causes of Cushing's syndrome and one of them is a tumor of the adrenal cortex.

A sudden weight gain may point to the presence of Cushing's syndrome especially if fat tissue accumulates in the belly or on the face. This syndrome also features with fatigue, elevation of blood pressure and the presence of noticeable stretch marks.

In some cases if one is suffering from previously mentioned physical symptoms and there are additional mood changes the chance that a person is suffering from certain adrenal gland disorders become even more likely.

And finally, Addison's and Cushing's disease feature with increased susceptibility to bruising. Furthermore, minor injuries (cuts, insect bites etc.) may take longer to heal.

Any of the previously mentioned may point to the presence of certain disorders of the adrenal glands. This is why they need to be reported and after thorough examination the doctor will confirm or rule out problems and medical conditions of adrenal glands and if necessary, prescribe suitable treatment.

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