The adrenal glands help the body react to stress, and they also keep fluids and electrolytes like potassium in check. Adenomas are benign tumors of these glands, which can affect the basic functions the body needs to survive and stay healthy. The way the adenoma impacts the body depends on the type of growth.
There are two basic types of adenomas: nonfunctioning and functioning. When such a tumor is functioning, it has the ability to influence the steroid hormones like cortisol that are released into the body. When it isn't functioning, it doesn't have the power to determine how much of these hormones are distributed, according to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
Within the functioning adenoma realm, there are several types of adenomas. There are ademonas that cause the body to produce too much of the hormone aldosterone. In other cases, too much adrenaline can cause a deadly situation, whereby the growth actually causes blood pressure to surge to the point where a heart attack or stroke may occur. The signs and symptoms of these types of adenomas all vary, according to the University of Pennsylvania.
When the tumor releases too much aldosterone into the bloodstream, it often causes an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure, according to the American Cancer Society. Other signs include low levels of the electrolyte potassium, as well as problems with the kidneys and excessive thirst.
When too much of the feminizing hormones like estrogen are released, men may develop characteristics that are atypical of their gender. One of the most common occurrences may be the development of breasts, and those suffering from it can also experience a reduction in libido and erectile dysfunction, according to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.
On the flipside, if too much of the steroid hormone androgen is released into a woman's body, she may experience hirsutism, which is excess hair on the body, according to the University of Pennsylvania. She may also develop acne that she never had before, and her periods may not be as regular as they used to be.
When too much cortisol is distributed, Cushing's syndrome can occur. Symptoms of this disorder are many and they include obesity, particularly fat in the upper part of the body that causes a rounded face or hump-backed. Those with the condition are also predisposed to diabetes. The symptoms may be psychological in nature and include extreme ups and downs in mood and depression, according to the University of Pennsylvania.
Too much of the hormone adrenaline can cause a particularly nasty situation. When this happens, a pheochromocytoma may develop. This type of growth results in heart palpitations, headaches, panic attacks and blood pressure so elevated that a heart attack and sudden death is a risk, according to Hitchcock Medical Center. This is a crisis situation that requires immediate attention.