Adrenal glands release hormones (such as adrenaline and cortisol) that affect how your body uses energy. Overactive and underactive adrenal glands can cause disorders and unwanted symptoms.

Overactive Adrenal Glands/Cushing’s Syndrome

Cushing’s Syndrome is caused by prolonged high levels of cortisol. This is a hormone that your adrenal gland makes. This is a rare disorder. Sometimes, taking synthetic hormone medicine to treat an inflammatory disease leads to Cushing’s Syndrome. Some tumors produce a hormone that can cause your body to make too much cortisol.

Cushing’s Syndrome symptoms can include:

  • Upper body obesity
  • Thin arms and legs
  • Severe fatigue and muscle weakness
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Easy bruising

Lab tests will help your Ohio State doctor determine if you have this disorder and determine the cause. Treatment will depend on the cause of the disorder. For example, if the Cushing’s Syndrome is the result of synthetic hormone therapy, the dosage may be changed. If a tumor is the cause, surgery or another therapy may be recommended.

Underactive Adrenal Glands/Addison’s Disease

The outside layer of the adrenal glands makes hormones that help responses to stress, regulate blood pressure and keep the body’s water and salt levels in balance. Addison’s Disease can result when the adrenal glands do not make enough hormones to regulate these functions properly.

Addison’s Disease often occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues, damaging the adrenal glands. Other causes include infections and cancer.

Addison’s Disease may include:

  • Weight loss
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue that gets worse with time
  • Low blood pressure
  • Patchy or dark skin

Addison’s Disease can be diagnosed with lab tests. If you have this condition, your Ohio State doctor can determine a treatment course that is best for you. People with this disorder often take hormone replacement therapy for an extended time period. They also carry an emergency identification that notes the disease, medications they take and the correct dose for an emergency response. It is important for a person with Addison’s Disease to be seen by a specialist, as this disorder can be deadly if it is not treated.

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