Adrenal gland disorders

Adrenal gland disorders

  • Cushing's syndrome is a condition where you have too much cortisol. This causes a variety of problems, such as weight gain, a flushed face, bruising and diabetes. Cushing's syndrome is usually caused by taking steroid medication for a long time, but it can sometimes be caused by a tumour of the adrenal gland.
  • Addison’s disease is caused by the adrenal glands failing to make enough of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone. If you have Addison’s disease, you’ll have a poor appetite and lose weight, and you might also have abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and dizziness.
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is a condition in which the adrenal glands produce excess male sex hormones. Symptoms can include early puberty in boys and male features in girls.

Conn’s syndrome occurs where there is a tumour that makes excess aldosterone, leading to high blood pressure.

Pituitary gland disorders

The pituitary gland can become disturbed and make too much or too little of a hormone. It can also be the site of a tumour, which can cause problems by squashing the surrounding brain tissue. Tumours in the pituitary are usually benign and only cause problems when they change hormone levels or take up too much space.

Here are some of the more common pituitary conditions.

  • Hyperprolactinaemia (too much prolactin) – a woman with hyperprolactinaemia might notice her periods becoming lighter or stopping. Might have difficulty getting pregnant and/or producing breast milk.
  • Growth hormone deficiency – this can delay children’s growth and lead to a child being shorter in height than expected. In adults, growth hormone deficiency can cause fatigue, weak muscles, excess weight and can affect bone health.
  • Hypopituitarism – a deficiency of all the pituitary hormones, which causes many different symptoms.

There are also rare symptoms caused by a pituitary condition, including:

  • gigantism – where a person grows very tall
  • acromegaly – where a person’s hands, feet and jaw enlarge
  • Cushing’s syndrome – where the body creates too many steroid hormones.

Parathyroid gland conditions

  • Sometimes the parathyroid glands produce too much parathyroid hormone. This is usually just because the glands have grown too big, but in rare cases it can be due to cancer.
  • If you have too much parathyroid hormone, your body can take too much calcium away from your bones and put calcium into your blood instead. This means that when you have a blood test, it will show the calcium levels are too high.
  • A loss of calcium from your bones increases the risk of osteoporosis, which is where your bones become thinner and can break more easily. But not everyone who has osteoporosis has a parathyroid problem.
  • A parathyroid problem might also make you feel tired, and it can cause kidney stones, stomach pains, or pains in the joints.
  • If a parathyroid gland problem leads to you having one of these conditions, your doctor might recommend surgery to remove one or more of your parathyroid glands. There are different techniques for this kind of surgery. You should talk to your doctor for more information about what treatment you might need and what to expect.