The adrenal glands are located at the top of each of the kidneys, receiving their supply of blood from the adrenal arteries. The adrenal glands each have two structures which are connected with the central nervous system. These glands produce hormones that are vital for body functions, such as sex hormones and help the body to respond to stress. Adrenal insufficiencies often cause the enlargement of the adrenal glands and can have a number of sources.
Addison's Disease and Enlarged Adrenal Glands
Addison’s Disease, also called primary adrenal insufficiency is one of the diseases of the endocrine system, which occurs because the adrenal glands cannot produce enough cortisole or aldosterone because of missing enzymes. This changes the speed of chemical reactions. Cortisol helps the adrenals remain balanced, but if cortisol is not produced appropriately, enlargement or swelling of the glands can occur.
Amyloidosis and Enlarged Adrenal Glands
Amyloidosis occurs when the bone marrow cells that produce antibodies are unable to break them down. Amyloidosis is disease that often involves the renal system and affects the health of the adrenal glands. In amyloidosis, proteins are deposited in organs and tissues and they build up, preventing normal function of various parts of the body and causes the adrenal glands to swell or become enlarged.
Chronic Infection and Enlarged Adrenal Glands
Chronic infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia or other infections that compromise the respiratory system can cause the adrenal glands to become overworked and fatigued, which may make them enlarged or swollen. There is the chance for long-term damage if an infection goes untreated.
Cushing's Disease and Enlarged Adrenal Glands
Cushing’s disease is a disorder that is caused because of high levels of cortisol in the body. This is a hormonal disorder that is often related to those with type 2 diabetes. In some cases, Cushings can cause noncancerous tumors to develop on the tissue of the adrenal gland.
Phaeochromocytoma is a type of adrenal gland cancer, where a tumor develops in the adrenal glands because abnormal cells overproduce adrenaline and other chemicals. The tumor normally begins to grow inside the adrenal gland in the medulla, causing the adrenal gland(s) to expand in size.
Polyendocrine Deficiency Syndrome
There are two types of syndromes, one occurring in children and the other in young adults. These are both marked by underactive glands and slow sexual development. However, in type one, patients also have anemia, candida, active hepatitis and sometimes hair loss. In the second type, also called Schmidt’s syndrome, diabetes and lack of skin pigmentation exist. These endocrine deficiencies often involve a deficiency in the health of the adrenal glands.
Tuberculosis, also called TB is an infection that destroys an entire gland, including the cortex and medulla. TB is a bacteria that normally affects the lungs, however it can also affect other areas of the body. The destruction of the adrenal glands from tuberculosis is not reversible.