What Are the Causes of Enlarged Adrenal Glands?


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 that are connected with the central nervous system. These glands produce hormones that are vital for body functions, such as sex and stress hormones. 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. It 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 a disease that often involves the renal system and affects the health of the adrenal glands. In amyloidosis, proteins are deposited in organs and tissues. As they build up, they prevent normal function of various parts of the body, causing 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, Cushing's 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 to expand in size.

Polyendocrine Deficiency Syndrome

  • There are two types of syndromes, one occurring in children and the other in young adults, marked by underactive glands and slow sexual development. However, in type 1, 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, but it can also affect other areas of the body. The destruction of the adrenal glands from tuberculosis is not reversible.

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