Adrenal glands, also called suprarenal glands, are small, triangular glands located on top of both kidneys. An adrenal gland is made of two parts. The outer region is called the adrenal cortex and the inner region is called the adrenal medulla. Both parts of the adrenal glands--the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla--have distinct functions.
Disorders of the adrenal glands require clinical care by a physician or other healthcare professional. Below are some of the conditions BSW Endocrine Center treat:
Addison's disease is when the adrenal glands don't make enough of two steroid hormones. The hormones are cortisol and aldosterone. Cortisol controls the body's metabolism, blocks inflammatory reactions, and affects the immune system. Aldosterone manages sodium and potassium levels. The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys. There is one gland on top of each kidney. Addison's disease is fairly rare and may first appear at any age.
The most common cause of Addison's disease is damage to the adrenal glands caused by an autoimmune disease. Other cases of Addison's disease are caused by the damage to the glands by any of these:
In rare cases, Addison's disease is passed down in a family.
Other causes of low corticosteroids can include:
A child is at risk for Addison's disease if he or she has any of these:
Mild symptoms may only occur when a child is under physical stress. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of Addison's disease can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she may also ask about your family’s health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may have blood tests. These are done to check corticosteroid and potassium levels.
The goal of treatment is to replace the hormones and to relieve the symptoms. Addison's disease can be life-threatening. Because of this, treatment often starts right away with corticosteroid medicine. This medicine may be taken by mouth. Or it may be given by IV. It depends on how sick your child is. In most cases, corticosteroid medicine must be taken for life. Treatment may also include a medicine that helps manage the body's levels of sodium and potassium.
If left untreated, Addison's disease may lead to:
Severe complications are most likely to occur when the child is under physical stress.
Lack of adrenal hormones may also cause:
Addison's disease is a life-long condition. It needs lifetime treatment. Stressful events such as surgery, infection, or injury can cause severe symptoms of Addison’s. This is because corticosteroids help the body fight infection and keep healthy during physical stress. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider if your child needs surgery. Get medical care for your child right away if he or she:
Your child should wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. Work with your child's healthcare provider to help manage your child’s condition.
Call your child's healthcare provider if your child has any symptoms of Addison's disease.
If your child has Addison's disease, talk with your child’s healthcare provider if your child needs surgery. Get medical care for your child right away if he or she:
Pheochromocytoma is a tumor of the adrenal glands. The tumor makes hormones called epinephrine and norepinephrine. This leads to an excess of the hormones in the body. These hormones help manage heart rate and blood pressure, and they have other tasks. Too much of these hormones in the body causes problems. Pheochromocytoma is rare and occurs most often in adults between ages 20 and 50. But about 10% of cases are in children ages 6 to 14. A child may have more than one tumor.
The tumor can be caused by both genes and environmental factors. About a quarter of the cases are part of a hereditary disease such as:
A child is at higher risk for pheochromocytoma if he or she has any of these:
The most common symptom is high blood pressure, which can be very high. The high blood pressure can cause:
Other symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. They may include:
The symptoms of pheochromocytoma can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she may also ask about your family’s health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests, such as:
Treatment is done by removing the tumor or tumors with surgery. Before surgery, your child’s healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to lower the high blood pressure. Most people are cured with surgery. But in some people, the tumor can grow back.
Complications can include heart damage or stroke caused by high blood pressure.
Ongoing medical care may be needed to check for growth of a new tumor. Family members may also want to consider genetic testing to see who else may be at risk for pheochromocytoma.
Get medical care for your child right away if he or she has episodes that include a headache, fast heart rate, and sweating. If your child has high blood pressure or other symptoms of pheochromocytoma, talk with your child's healthcare provider.