Epinephrine (Adrenaline) is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is involved in many physiological processes including heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, body temperature regulation and much more. Epinephrine plays an important role in regulating our cardiovascular system and its levels may vary depending on several factors such as age, gender, physical activity level and other health conditions.
What Are the Signs of Adrenal Gland Problems?
The following are some of the symptoms associated with adrenal gland problems:
Fatigue or exhaustion
Dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting spells, nausea and vomiting
Irritability and aggression (rage) when under stress. Anger may increase after eating certain foods. These feelings usually subside within a few hours of eating food again. However they may persist for days or even weeks if not treated appropriately.
High blood pressure
Heart palpitations, chest pain and shortness of breath.
Nausea and vomiting when taking certain medications. Symptoms may last for up to two weeks after stopping medication. If left untreated, these symptoms may lead to dehydration, weight loss and kidney failure.
How Is Adrenal Gland Disease Treated?
Treatment options include medical treatment such as medicines, surgery or both. Each treatment option has its own advantage and disadvantages. The choice of treatment will be decided based on several factors such as the cause of the condition, age and other health conditions of the patient.
Some of the common medical treatments include:
Glucocorticoid (cortisone) – This type of drug is usually used to suppress the immune system to relieve inflammation in cases of autoimmune disorders or allergic reactions. The effects of this medicine are usually long-lasting and can be effective in relieving the symptoms of an overactive adrenal gland.
Mineralocorticoid (fludrocortisone) – This type of drug is similar to aldosterone which is naturally produced by the adrenal glands. It helps the kidneys retain salt and increases blood pressure. It is useful in treating Addison’s disease.
Adrenalectomy – In this procedure, the diseased portion of the adrenal gland is surgically removed. A healthy portion of the gland is usually left in place to ensure that the hormone cortisol is still produced. This surgery is performed for tumors or damage to an adrenal gland and may also be used when only one adrenal gland remains.
How Can I Manage My Adrenal Gland Problems?
You should see your physician if you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms associated with an overactive or underactive adrenal gland. Depending on your particular condition, your doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist who is a physician that specializes in diseases involving the endocrine system.
The endocrinologist may perform several tests to determine the nature of the disease and its severity. You may also be required to undergo various imaging tests such as ultrasounds, CT scans or MRIs to determine the location and size of the tumor.
After confirming the diagnosis, your physician will explain the different treatment options and help you decide on the best treatment plan for you. In some cases, when the tumor is very small and does not produce excessive amounts of hormones, physicians may suggest watchful waiting since symptoms may not appear for many years.
In other cases, the physician may recommend surgical removal of the tumor if its location makes it accessible or if you are not a good candidate for watchful waiting. If surgery is not an option, your physician may refer you to an endocrinologist who can prescribe certain medicines that can control the production of cortisol by the adrenal gland.
What Is The Long-Term Outlook?
The outlook for patients with adrenal gland tumors is generally good. Depending on the type of tumor present, some may be cured with surgery while others may be controlled with medicines for many years. In some cases, patients live a normal life span despite the presence of a tumor or having undergone surgery.
New medications have improved the quality of life for patients and increased their life expectancy. With early detection, most patients can lead a normal life span. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of an overactive or underactive adrenal gland, please seek medical attention immediately.
Sources & references used in this article:
Spectroelectrochemical and electrochemical behavior of epinephrine at a gold electrode by SH Kim, JW Lee, IH Yeo – Electrochimica acta, 2000 – Elsevier
The adrenal medulla by WB Cannon – Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 1940 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Is adrenaline the cause of essential hypertension? by MJ Brown, I Macquin – The Lancet, 1981 – Elsevier
Adrenal medullary function by M Goldenberg – The American journal of medicine, 1951 – Elsevier
Differential responses of components of the autonomic nervous system by DS Goldstein – Handbook of clinical neurology, 2013 – Elsevier
Human ageing and the sympathoadrenal system by DR Seals, MD Esler – The Journal of physiology, 2000 – Wiley Online Library