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Adrenal glands

The adrenal glands are two triangle-shaped glands. One gland is located on top of each kidney.

Information

Each adrenal gland is about the size of the top part of the thumb. The outer part of the gland is called the cortex. It produces steroid hormones such as cortisol, aldosterone, and hormones that can be changed into testosterone. The inner part of the gland is called the medulla. It produces epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones are also called adrenaline and noradrenaline.

When the glands produce more or less hormones than normal, you can become sick. This might happen at birth or later in life.

The adrenal glands can be affected by many diseases, such as autoimmune disorders, infections, tumors, and bleeding.

Conditions related to adrenal gland problems include:

References

Friedman TC. Adrenal gland. In: Benjamin IJ, Griggs RC, Wing EJ, Fitz JG, eds. Andreoli and Carpenter's Cecil Essentials of Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 64.

Standring S. Suprarenal (adrenal) gland. In: Standring S, ed. Gray's Anatomy. 41st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 71.

Stewart PM, Newell-Price JDC. The adrenal cortex. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 15.

    • Endocrine glands

      Endocrine glands - illustration

      Endocrine glands release hormones (chemical messengers) into the bloodstream to be transported to various organs and tissues throughout the body. For instance, the pancreas secretes insulin, which allows the body to regulate levels of sugar in the blood. The thyroid gets instructions from the pituitary to secrete hormones which determine the rate of metabolism in the body (the more hormone in the bloodstream, the faster the chemical activity; the less hormone, the slower the activity).

      Endocrine glands

      illustration

    • Adrenal glands

      Adrenal glands - illustration

      Triangular-shaped glands located on top of the kidneys. They produce hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, steroids, cortisol, and cortisone, and chemicals such as adrenalin (epinephrine), norepinephrine, and dopamine.

      Adrenal glands

      illustration

    • Adrenal gland biopsy

      Adrenal gland biopsy - illustration

      The adrenal glands are endocrine glands which are located immediately on top of the kidneys. During an adrenal biopsy, a small sample of tissue is removed and sent to the pathologist for testing. The biopsy can be performed when a suspicious mass or tumor is found on one or both of the adrenal glands.

      Adrenal gland biopsy

      illustration

      • Endocrine glands

        Endocrine glands - illustration

        Endocrine glands release hormones (chemical messengers) into the bloodstream to be transported to various organs and tissues throughout the body. For instance, the pancreas secretes insulin, which allows the body to regulate levels of sugar in the blood. The thyroid gets instructions from the pituitary to secrete hormones which determine the rate of metabolism in the body (the more hormone in the bloodstream, the faster the chemical activity; the less hormone, the slower the activity).

        Endocrine glands

        illustration

      • Adrenal glands

        Adrenal glands - illustration

        Triangular-shaped glands located on top of the kidneys. They produce hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, steroids, cortisol, and cortisone, and chemicals such as adrenalin (epinephrine), norepinephrine, and dopamine.

        Adrenal glands

        illustration

      • Adrenal gland biopsy

        Adrenal gland biopsy - illustration

        The adrenal glands are endocrine glands which are located immediately on top of the kidneys. During an adrenal biopsy, a small sample of tissue is removed and sent to the pathologist for testing. The biopsy can be performed when a suspicious mass or tumor is found on one or both of the adrenal glands.

        Adrenal gland biopsy

        illustration

      Tests for Adrenal glands

       

      Review Date: 5/17/2016

      Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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