DISORDERS OF THE ADRENAL GLANDS - a patient's guide
What are the adrenal glands?
The adrenal glands are two small glands which are next to the kidneys, they produce several important hormones which are essential for the normal functioning of the body.
The three hormones produced by the adrenals include:
1. Aldosterone (mineralocorticoid): This is a very important hormone which helps the body retain salt and plays an important role in the control of blood pressure.
There are various causes of an overproduction (hyperaldosteronism) of this hormone (e.g. Conn's Syndrome), all of which usually cause high blood pressure.
Addison's disease (of which there are several causes) can result in an underproduction of aldosterone (causing low blood pressure).
2. Cortisol (glucocorticoid): This is a very important hormone which has many roles in the body, including helping fight infection, controlling the body's stress reaction and acting as an anti-inflammatory.
Cushing's Syndrome results from too much cortisol in the body; this may be produced in the adrenal gland or be associated with other more rare conditions. The same changes can be brought on by prolonged high doses of steroids (prednisone or prednisolone).
In Addison's disease, too little cortisol is produced as well.
3. Androgens: The adrenal glands also produce small amounts of androgens (the male hormones) in both men and women.