The endocrine system is one of the body systems that are responsible for the production of hormones needed by the body. Without these hormones, the body will not function well. More importantly, without these hormones, procreation will not exist. The major endocrine glands are the Pineal gland, Pituitary gland, Thyroid gland, Thymus, Adrenal gland, Pancreas, Ovary (in women) and Testes (in men). Each of these glands produces specific hormones but all of them are still correlated. Malfunction of each gland can cause drastic effects to the body, even causing mild to fatal diseases. In this topic, malfunction of the adrenal gland causing different adrenal diseases and its effects to the body will be discussed.
Adrenal diseases are caused by malfunctioning of the adrenal gland. There are many factors that contribute to the disease such as malfunction of other endocrine glands such as the pituitary gland, eating habit, lifestyle, or some through genetic inheritance. Examples of these diseases are the Cushing’s Syndrome and the Addison’s disease.
Cushing’s Syndrome is rare among the adrenal diseases. It is usually caused by the overproduction of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is responsible for the increase of blood sugar and it also aids in the metabolism of fats and proteins. It is also the hormone responsible for suppressing the immune system and for regulating stress and blood pressure. Majority of the cause for this disease is also due to malfunction of the pituitary gland.
Hormonal imbalance causes changes in the body and may also lead to certain diseases. An overproduction or underproduction of hormones signifies hormonal imbalance. In the case of Cushing’s syndrome, the overproduction of cortisol is the main culprit of the disease. Physical diagnosis of the disease would include sudden weight gain of the upper torso including the face, thinning of skin, excess sweating, dilation of capillaries, purple colored stretch marks particularly in the abdomen, and excessive hair growth in women (especially in areas where hair growth is only particular to men). Clinical diagnosis for Cushing’s Syndrome would include a 24-hour urine or saliva examination, assessment of cortisol levels in blood through blood samples taken from patients. Other specific diagnosis would be the dexamethasone suppression test or CT scanning to check the adrenal gland and MRI to check the pituitary gland as well.
Like any adrenal diseases, treatment should immediately be done. If tumors are found or any other abnormalities in either the adrenal gland or the pituitary gland that may have cause the overproduction of cortisol, invasive treatments such as surgery are usually recommended. Aside from that, medication can also be prescribed. Usually, these medications that would help in regulating amount of cortisol in the body through inhibition of the synthesis of cortisols.
Addison’s disease is another one of the rare adrenal diseases. It is a disease that is caused by the insufficient production of steroid hormones such as mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids by the adrenal glands. Glucocorticoid is the hormone responsible for regulating glucose, fat and protein metabolism and other functions that is the same with the cortisol since cortisol is also a glucocorticoid. Mineralocorticoid on the other hand, is another steroid hormone that is involved in the retention sodium. The difference between the two adrenal diseases mentioned (Cushing’s and Addison’s disease) is that unlike the Cushing’s syndrome, Addison’s disease can be characterized by lower cortisol levels in the blood.
People with Addison’s disease may have hypercalcemia (increased blood calcium levels), hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels), hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels), hyperkalemia (increases blood potassium levels), metabolic acidosis (increased blood acidity) and increase in white blood cells specifically eosinophils and lymphocytes. Clinical examinations would also include blood testing.
Treatment of adrenal diseases always depends on the diagnosis. Treatment for Addison’s disease may include surgery or medication. Usually, they are injected with cortisol when needed.