Adrenal Glands

The adrenal glands are the body's main protection against acute and chronic stress, responding to stimulants & stresses on the body by releasing specific hormones.

The adrenal glands produce several different hormones with a variety of functions, depending on the site of origin inside the adrenal gland. They are involved in the co-ordination of many physiological activities and affect many parts of the body, and changes in their secretion produce a variety of endocrine syndromes.

This Adrenal section of the website covers all aspects of the adrenal glands, including their  anatomy, function and the history of adrenal surgery. The major diseases of the adrenals can be studied in more detail on their own webpages; just click on the areas of the menu to the left that interest you.

Adrenal Disease

Problems with the adrenals can be due to either a change in function, such as hypofunction (decreased production of adrenal hormones) or hyperfunction (increased production of adrenal hormones), or to the development of a non-functional lump in the gland (incidentaloma).

  • Hypofunction of the adrenal gland usually results from either destruction of the gland itself or from insufficient stimulation.
  • Hyperfunction can result from either excessive production of a hormone from the gland itself, or excessive stimulation of the gland. The excess production may arise from a benign tumour of the gland known as an adenoma. Malignant tumours of the adrenals do occur, but are very rare.
  • Incidentalomas (non-functional lumps in the adrenals) can be benign or malignant, and are usually found incidentally (hence the name) on an ultrasound or CT scan being done for some other reason.

When a patient presents with symptoms or signs of adrenal disease, then further investigation is required to determine hormone levels and whether there is a tumour or mass in the gland itself. This is achieved by radiological imaging.

Surgical adrenal problems

Although there are a large number of endocrine syndromes related to dysfunction of the adrenal glands, in general only a limited number require the services of an adrenal endocrine surgeon. This website will deal with these on their own webpages.