What are the adrenal glands?

What are the adrenal glands?

The adrenal glands (also called adrenal glands or “kidney caps”) are triangular endocrine glands located on top of the kidneys. These glands release hormones, which can affect a variety of body processes, including regulating metabolism, helping the immune system, and managing stress responses.

The word “adrenal gland” comes from Latin advertise Means “near” and Renes It means “kidney”.


The adrenal glands are part of the human endocrine system, which consists of a system of glands that release chemical messengers called hormones. These hormones are transported to specific tissues and organs through the blood.

The adrenal gland is composed of two main parts:

  • The outer part of the adrenal gland is called the cortex and releases hormones, including androgens (male sex hormones) and cortisol. Hormones released outside the adrenal glands help control the immune system and metabolism.
  • The inner area of ​​the adrenal gland is called the medulla and produces the hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine. The hormones released by the endothelium control the body’s stress response, which is often referred to as the fight or flight response.

How the adrenal glands work

The adrenal glands release hormones into the blood to regulate metabolism, blood pressure, stress response and immune function. The main hormones produced by the adrenal glands include:

  • Cortisol
  • Aldosterone
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
  • Adrenaline
  • Norepinephrine


Cortisol is a naturally occurring steroid hormone that plays a role in a variety of body functions. Often referred to as the “stress hormone”, cortisol is known for its role in the body’s stress response, and is also involved in the regulation of the following functions and more:

  • Blood pressure regulation
  • Glucose metabolism
  • Immune Function
  • Inflammation
  • Insulin release


Aldosterone plays an important role in regulating blood pressure and the body’s sodium and potassium levels. It sends signals to the kidneys to absorb sodium through urine and release potassium, thereby regulating blood pressure and the amount of electrolytes in the body.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

DHEA is a naturally occurring steroid hormone that can be converted into a series of hormones, including androgens and estrogen, namely male and female sex hormones.

Epinephrine and norepinephrine

The hormones adrenaline (epinephrine) and norepinephrine (norepinephrine) are released during the body’s stress response. They help to cause the “adrenaline surge” you might feel when you are scared.

Adrenal gland disease

When the adrenal glands produce too much or too little hormones, it can cause disease. If the pituitary gland is diseased, it will send a signal to the adrenal glands, when certain hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone are produced, the function of the adrenal glands will also be impaired.

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Different types of adrenal gland diseases include:

  • Addison’s disease occurs when the adrenal glands can no longer provide enough cortisol and aldosterone for the body.
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is a group of genetic diseases in which the body cannot produce sufficient amounts of key enzymes, which usually include cortisol and aldosterone.
  • Cushing syndrome occurs either because the body produces excessive cortisol, or because of excessive use of corticosteroids (such as prednisone).
  • Pheochromocytoma is a rare tumor found in the adrenal glands, which secretes large amounts of certain hormones (catecholamines) produced by the adrenal glands.


The symptoms of adrenal disease depend on the type of disease you have and can range from mild to severe.

Addison’s disease

Common signs and symptoms of Addison’s disease include:

  • stomach ache
  • Anxiety or irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Decreased appetite
  • Frustrated
  • Dizziness when getting up (Orthostatic hypotension)
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Heart palpitations
  • Pigmentation (skin pigmentation)
  • dizzy
  • Low libido
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Needling sensation (peripheral neuropathy)
  • Craving for salt
  • Trembling or trembling
  • lose weight

Cushing syndrome

Common signs and symptoms of Cushing syndrome include:

  • acne
  • Buffalo hump (excess fat deposited on the back of the neck)
  • Elevated blood sugar levels
  • Overgrowth of hair (hirsutism)
  • Excessive thirst
  • fatigue
  • Headache
  • hypertension
  • Increased urination
  • Menstrual changes
  • Obesity around the trunk
  • Psychological symptoms such as emotional instability, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc.
  • Full round face (called moon face)
  • Skin changes
  • Stretch marks on the abdomen, arms, chest, buttocks, and thighs
  • weakness


Common signs and symptoms of pheochromocytoma include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive sweating
  • Excessive thirst/urination
  • Headache
  • High blood sugar
  • Tachycardia (rapid heart rate)
  • lose weight


Usually, your healthcare provider will assess your adrenal function by collecting blood and/or urine to measure the level and function of certain adrenal hormones. There may also be imaging tests, such as CT or MRI scans.


Based on your specific diagnosis, there are many ways to treat adrenal diseases, including:

  • Drugs that control the overproduction of hormones
  • Hormone replacement therapy to replace cortisol and/or aldosterone that the body lacks
  • Surgery to remove one or two adrenal glands, or in the case of pheochromocytoma