Adrenal gland disorders
Christy, Nicholas College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, New York.
Last reviewed:March 2021
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- Adrenal cortex
- Primary adrenal cortical insufficiency
- Secondary adrenal cortical insufficiency
- Adrenal cortical hyperfunction
- Secondary hyperaldosteronism
- Cushing's syndrome
- Virilizing syndromes
- Adrenal medulla
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Malfunctions of the paired adrenal glands. The paired adrenal glands are complex endocrine organs in proximity to the kidneys (see illustration), and disorders of the adrenal glands can have serious consequences. Under specific circumstances, adrenal glands can have congenital defects or can be damaged by infections and destructive tumors. Anencephaly, that is, gross underdevelopment of the brain in fetal life, leads to hypoplasia of the adrenal cortex. The cortex also can be affected by acute bacterial diseases, for example, septicemia due to a colon bacillus or meningococcus, which can result in failure of the adrenal cortex followed by shock and death (Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome). Chronic infection of the cortex by the tubercle bacillus or a fungal infection, such as histoplasmosis, can cause primary adrenal deficiency. Moreover, cancer may spread to the adrenal glands, and there are uncommon primary tumors of the adrenal glands that do not secrete hormones. The most important disorders of the adrenal cortex and adrenal medulla are those characterized by abnormal hormone secretion. See also: Adrenal gland; Cancer; Endocrine mechanisms; Endocrine system (vertebrate); Endocrinology; Gland; Hormone; Tumor
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