Care for even the most complex adrenal conditions
Adrenal conditionsYour adrenal glands produce the hormones that regulate your metabolism, blood pressure and more. We’re here to keep your adrenal system healthy, so you can feel your best.
What is the adrenal system?
Just above your kidneys sit your adrenal glands. These small, triangular organs are a part of your endocrine system and produce hormones that regulate many of your body’s essential functions, including your blood pressure, immune system, metabolism and your body’s stress response.
Each adrenal gland is divided into two parts:
- Adrenal cortex, which is made up of three different parts that each produce specific hormones, including cortisol
- Adrenal medulla, which produces stress hormones, including adrenaline
What are some common adrenal conditions?
When your adrenal glands don’t produce the right amount of hormones (either too much or too little), you can develop an adrenal condition. There are several types of adrenal conditions, including:
- Addison’s disease: Also known as adrenal insufficiency, Addison’s disease occurs when your adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol. It can cause symptoms like fatigue, low blood sugar, mood changes, dizziness or dehydration.
- Adrenal cancer: Cancer that originates in your adrenal glands.
- Cushing’s disease: This condition occurs when your body produces too much cortisol. Symptoms of Cushing’s disease include a rounded face, weight gain around the midsection, cuts that heal slowly, high blood pressure and changes in mood.
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia: This rare genetic condition occurs when the adrenal glands produce too many androgens. This condition can lead to early puberty or girls developing facial hair or deepened voices. In addition, some infant girls born with congenital adrenal hyperplasia may have genitalia that appears male.
- Hyperaldosteronism: Also known as Conn syndrome, hyperaldosteronism occurs when your adrenal glands release too much aldosterone, the hormone that regulates blood pressure. Symptoms include high blood pressure, fatigue and low levels of potassium.
- Pheochromocytoma: Caused by rare, non-cancerous tumors in the adrenal glands, this condition can cause panic attacks and anxiety, high blood pressure, heart palpitations and shortness of breath.
- Pituitary tumors: When growths form on the pituitary gland, they can affect the amount of hormones your adrenal glands produce. Depending on the type of growth, you may experience symptoms such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, anxiety or depression, enlarged hands and feet, rapid heartbeat, fewer menstrual periods or intolerance to cold.
Adrenal condition risk factors
There are certain behaviors, genetics and risk factors that can increase your chances of developing an adrenal condition, including:
- Autoimmune disease: Having an autoimmune condition such as Addison’s disease or a condition involving the pituitary gland, diabetes or hypothyroidism may increase your risk of developing an adrenal condition.
- Family history: If you have a family member who was diagnosed with an adrenal condition, you have a greater risk of developing adrenal disease.
- Trauma: Accidents involving head injuries or trauma may increase your risk of developing an adrenal condition.
- Other risk factors: Other risk factors that can increase the risk of developing adrenal conditions include:
- Certain medications, such as steroids or glucocorticoids
- Having an infection
Diagnosing adrenal conditions
Our endocrinology specialists are experienced in diagnosing and treating all kinds of adrenal conditions.
Some of the diagnostic tests your doctor may perform to test for adrenal disease include:
- Blood tests: These tests can also rule out any issues with your thyroid, liver or kidneys.
- 24-hour urine test: During this test, you’ll collect your urine for 24 hours. It will then be sent to a lab to analyze how quickly your body produces certain hormones needed for adrenal function.
- Imaging tests: Diagnostic imaging tests, such MRIs, CT scans and PET scans, are used to produce detailed pictures of your adrenal system.
- Meta-iodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) scan: This nuclear imaging test takes place over two days. On the first day, you’ll receive an injection of MIBG, a chemical similar to adrenaline. Several hours later, a special camera will take pictures of your abdomen to determine where the chemical has collected. Additional pictures and a scan will be taken the following morning.
Treating adrenal conditions
You can make several lifestyle changes that your doctor may suggest to begin to undo damage caused by adrenal disease and improve your overall adrenal function. These include:
- Increasing sleep
- Change in diet
- Reducing stress
- Emotional support
Radiation oncology uses radiation to control or destroy harmful cancer cells, with tools to treat each unique adrenal cancer.
Your team can offer conventional radiotherapy treatments that include:
- External beam radiation, which uses special technology to send X-ray radiation (photons) to the tumor from outside the body.
- Internal radiation (brachytherapy), which targets the tumor using safe levels of radiation inside the body through radioactive tubes or radioactive seeds.
- Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), which uses a 3D image of the tumor to deliver high-precision radiotherapy that fits its exact outline.
- Image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT), which is used to localize the radiation beam daily and treat cancers in areas of the body that move during and between treatments. This includes cone beam CT scans to accurately view the tumor and target it during treatment.
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), which uses precise conformal beams of radiation to focus high doses of radiation to just the tumor, with very little damage to surrounding healthy tissues.
Adrenal care at Geisinger
- The knowledge you need – Your care team is powered by endocrinologists, surgeons, doctors and specialists with years of training and experience. Their expertise has been honed by treating many people with adrenal issues every year. And their focus is on delivering the care best suited to your needs.
- Care designed for you, where you live – With locations throughout northeast, central and south-central Pennsylvania, our experienced team provides consultations and comprehensive care. We offer leading-edge treatment options and tailored-to-you care, backed by the expertise and innovation of a nationally recognized health system.
- Comprehensive specialty care – Our adrenal specialists are dedicated to offering innovative treatment options and personalized care in convenient locations, so you don’t have to travel far. We’ll work with you to develop a personalized care plan based on your individual needs.
- Genetic testing and counseling programs – Special research programs such as MyCode® are only available at Geisinger. Participating in MyCode allows you to contribute to genetic research. By participating, some may receive information about their own genetic risks. Learn about MyCode.