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Overactive Adrenal Glands - Overview

Overactive adrenal glands produce more hormones than normal. Overproduction is commonly connected to specific group of hormones so overactive adrenal glands may cause increase in androgenic steroids, corticosteroids and aldosterone. The symptoms of overproduction basically depend on the very hormone which is produced in large amounts.

Excessive production of androgen hormones causes exaggerated secondary male characteristics which can be easily noticed in women. Facial hair become dark and thick, the entire body is covered with hair, patients may develop baldness, acne, deeper voice and become more muscular. In case adrenal glands produce excessive amount of corticosteroids the patient develops Cushing's disease. And finally, if adrenal glands produce too much aldosterone patients suffer from elevated blood pressure and low levels of potassium which consequently reflects in weakness of muscles and spasms.

Diagnosis of Overactive Adrenal Glands

Apart from complete medical history and physical examination the doctor performs specific blood and urine tests to measure the level of adrenal hormones. The underlying cause may be detected after CT scan or MRI of these glands.

Cushing's disease

This is the most common disease connected to overactive adrenal glands. It features with excessive production of corticosteroids. The cause of Cushing's syndrome may be adenoma of the adrenal gland, tumors of pituitary gland, and so on.

The symptoms of Cushing's disease include characteristic weight gain in which fat accumulates in upper part of the body. Fat also accumulates in the neck forming ' buffalo hump'. Patients who are suffering from Cushing's disease have round face which is medically known as facies lunata. Extremities of these patents are thin. Their skin is also thin and rather fragile. Thinning of the skin causes increased formation of stretch marks which are wide, intensively red in the beginning and most commonly affect torso. Patients additionally suffer from muscle weakness, high blood pressure and hyperglycemia and may suffer from anxiety or depression. Women have problems with menstrual cycle and men suffer from low sex drive.

The diagnosis of Cushing's disease can be set after presentation of symptoms and signs of the disease. Blood levels of specific adrenal hormones are increase. 24-hour urinary test is also performed and it measures corticosteroid hormones. CT scan and MRI may identify adenomas of either adrenal glands or pituitary gland.

Treatment for Cushing's disease basically depends on the cause. Tumors are surgically removed and this can cause drop in level of adrenal hormones. After surgical removal of the tumor patient may require radiation or chemotherapy.

Additional therapy may include medications such as hormone-inhibiting drugs.

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