What Is Adrenal Gland Failure?

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The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys, and play an important role in regulating many bodily functions. Adrenal gland failure could be potentially fatal if left untreated.

Identification

Adrenal gland failure, or hypoadrenalism, means the adrenal glands are failing to produce enough cortisol and aldosterone, hormones that control bodily functions like blood pressure, blood sugar and immune response.

Types

There are two general types of adrenal insufficiency: primary adrenal insufficiency, also known as Addison’s disease, and secondary adrenal insufficiency.

Causes

The problem may be due to a disorder of the adrenal glands (primary adrenal insufficiency). Long-lasting infections, such as tuberculosis and HIV, can harm the adrenal glands. Secondary adrenal insufficiency can be caused by problems with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland. These glands produce hormones that control the production of hormones in the rest of the body.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms include dizziness, weakness, fatigue and weight loss. Other symptoms may consist of stomach problems, increased pigmentation of skin, joint and muscles pain, and back pain.

Treatment

Treatment involves replacing, or substituting, the hormones that the adrenal glands are not making. Most people with this condition should expect to lead healthy lives with a normal life expectancy.

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