Adrenal Disorders

Waking up early, running to work, reaching the targets, and going to bed by 11 – seems like a regular day, right? But after going to bed, you suddenly wake up in the night, and keep staring at the ceiling because you cannot sleep – this isn’t normal. Such fluctuating sleep patterns will leave you exhausted for the next day.


Feeling exhausted for most of the times, irregular sleep patterns without any obvious reason, cravings for salty or sweet snacks, are all indications of dysfunction of the adrenal gland.

How important is the adrenal glands?

Adrenal glands are small, triangular endocrine glands located on top of each kidney. Each adrenal gland has two parts- medulla and cortex. They produce hormones like adrenaline and nor-adrenalin, cortisol, aldosterone and testosterone. These hormones help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to stress and other essential functions.

What happens when adrenal gland malfunctions?

Adrenal gland disorders (or diseases) are conditions where the normal functioning of the adrenal glands is impaired. Adrenal disorders may be caused due tohyperfunction or hypofunction of the adrenal gland, and may be congenital or acquired. Under-secretion of hormones causes Addison disease while over-secretion causes Cushing’s syndrome, Hyperaldosteronism, Pheochromocytoma, Virilization.

What happens with an overactive adrenal gland?

Adrenal glands make androgens, corticosteroids, and aldosterone. Overactive adrenal glands produce too much of any of these hormones.High level of aldosterone can lead to high blood pressure and dangerously low potassium levels, while elevated cortisol can lead to Cushing’s syndrome. Too much adrenaline can lead to high blood pressure, a heart attack, or stroke. High levels of testosterone in females will develop male characteristics (e.g. deeper voice, increased body hair).

How can one develop with adrenal disorders?

An unhealthy lifestyle and stress have vital contributions in developing adrenal disorders.

Inadequate secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone by the pituitary gland or any changes of the adrenal gland function can cause insufficient hormone production.While a tumor of the adrenal glands can result in the overproduction of various hormones.

How do I know that I have adrenal disorder?

The symptoms of adrenal disorders vary depending on the production of adrenal hormones.

Symptoms of hormone overproduction include: obesity; round face; increased fat around the neck, stretch marks on the abdomen, thighs, arms and breasts; bone and muscle weakness; severe fatigue; high blood pressure and blood sugar; excess facial hair and irregular or stopped menstrual cycles in woman and reduced sex drive and infertility in men.

Symptoms of hormone underproduction include: weakness, fatigue, dizziness, weight loss, dehydration, lack of appetite, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure and low sugar levels and irregular periods in women.

What are my chances of getting adrenal disorders?

Long-term stress causes these glands to become fatigued and unable to keep up with the demands of the body. Recurring experiences of mood swings, depression, trouble sleeping, loss of energy and sudden changes in body weight are warning signs of adrenal malfunction.Get an immediate adrenal function test to know for sure.

How can I confirm whether I have an adrenal disorder?

Adrenal disorders can be diagnosed mainly by two methods - Adrenal vein sampling and ACTH stimulation test. Adrenal vein sampling helps to determine how active the glands are and ACTH stimulation test helps to measure the level of hormones secreted from the adrenal glands

What are the treatment methods available?

Treatment depends on which hormone is affected and its level in our body. Treatment methods include surgical removal of growths or the adrenal gland(s) itself, radiation, chemotherapy, medications which prevent excessive production of certain hormones and hormone replacement.

However, providing a healthy diet and supplements can restore the normal adrenal gland functions. Protein, healthy fats, and high-quality, nutrient-dense carbohydrates along with vitamins (B5 &B6) and minerals support adrenal glands functions.

Are adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency the same?

No, adrenal fatigue and adrenal insufficiency are not the same. Adrenal fatigue is not a recognized medical diagnosis but rather a term used to describe a cluster of symptoms such as body aches, nervousness, sleep disturbances and digestive problem which suggests that the adrenal glands are exhausted. Adrenal Insufficiency is a life-threatening medical condition in which the adrenal glands do not release adequate amounts of their hormones which requires prompt treatment with the use of steroids.

Is pheochromocytoma a type of cancer?

A pheochromocytoma is an adrenal gland tumor, which secretes too much epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline), hormones responsible for regulating heart rate and blood pressure. High blood pressure with episodes of sweating, headache and heart palpitations are the classic 3 signs and symptoms of this condition.

These are benign tumors and once removed surgically will not regrow. If the tumor spreads or comeback then it may be cancerous with less life expectancy.

What is stress dose?

Patients with adrenal insufficiency cannot produce the needed level of cortisol when their body is under physical or emotional stress. They must be given with extra dose of medication during times of extreme conditions like fever, vomiting diarrhea, trauma etc.,which is called as stress dose.

What is Steroid?

Steroid is a term used to describe organic chemicals which are made by the body which support body functions like blood pressure regulation, immunosuppression, sexual function etc. Steroids are also man made medications which are useful in inflammatory conditions (corticosteroids) and for boosting muscle mass(anabolic steroids).

Is it normally found in us?

Steroids are normally found in the human body. Steroids are produced by the adrenal cortex, the gonads and the placenta. The adrenal cortex produces more than 30 types of steroids. Steroids that are produced in the body(endogenous steroids ) can be broadly classified as mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids and androgens.

Why endogenous steroids are important?

Endogenous steroids perform various important functions in the human body:

  • Cortisol, a glucocorticoid produced by the adrenal glands, play an important role in various bodily processes like controlling inflammation, regulating metabolism, and maintaining salt water balance in the body.
  • Aldosterone, a mineralocorticoid hormone produced by adrenal cortex, increases salt and water reabsorption. This increases blood volume and blood pressure.
  • Progesterone is a sex steroid which helps in maintaining pregnancy and regulates changes occurring in the uterus during the menstrual cycle.
  • Testosterone is a sex steroid which helps in the development of male secondary sexual characteristics.
  • Estrogen is a sex steroid which helps in the development of female secondary sexual characteristics.
What are exogenous steroids?

Exogenous steroids are synthetically produced steroids. They are primarily classified as corticosteroids and anabolic androgenic steroids. Corticosteroids like prednisone work like cortisol and their chief role is to inhibit the immune system from causing inflammation. These are useful in conditions like asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. Anabolic steroids are synthetic version of testosterone. This drug helps to build muscle mass and is generally prescribed in conditions where there is muscle wasting such as HIV/ AIDS, cancer etc.