Adrenal adenomas are benign growths that develop from the cortex of the adrenal glands. This article will provide you with information about the symptoms of this medical condition.
Adrenal glands are glands that are located on top of the kidneys, which are vital parts of the endocrine system. Triangular in shape with an orangish color, these glands are around three inches in length with a height of almost 1½ inches. Though small, they play a vital role in the normal body functioning, as they produce some important hormones, including the sex hormones. An adrenal gland is composed of an inner medulla and an outer cortex. It is from the outer cortex that adrenal adenoma develops.
Adrenal adenomas are benign growths that develop from the cortex of this gland. Such benign tumors are mostly found in elderly people, but it may develop at any age. It has been observed that there are very meager chances of adrenal adenomas getting malignant. However, in some cases, it may happen that cancer from other parts (like the lungs) may spread to the adrenal gland and develop as a malignant tumor on the adrenal cortex.
In some other cases, such growths are diagnosed as adrenocortical carcinoma, which is very rare. However, the nature of such growths on the adrenal cortex can be diagnosed correctly with the help of diagnostic tools, like, X-rays, CT scans and MRIs. Coming back to adrenal adenoma, the condition may or may not cause symptoms. In most cases, these adenomas are asymptomatic and are found accidentally, while undergoing a CT scan or MRI for other problems.
What Causes Adrenal Adenoma
Even though, the exact cause of this condition is still unknown, there are various factors that are said to be behind this condition. Some studies indicate that mutation of some unknown genes could be the reason for such benign tumors on the adrenal cortex. It has been observed that the risk of developing this condition increases with age. Other possible risk factors include inherited diseases like multiple endocrine neoplasia type I, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and the Carney complex. Genetic defects, like congenital adrenal hyperplasia may also be a causative factor for developing adrenal adenoma.
Symptoms of Adrenal Gland Adenoma
As mentioned above, adrenal adenoma can be symptomatic or asymptomatic. This condition can be classified into two types – functional and non functional ones. While, functional adenomas secrete hormones, non functional ones (called incidentalomas) do not secrete hormones. Symptoms of adrenal adenomas are usually associated with the functional ones. It may also happen that some of the functioning adrenal adenomas produce large amounts of hormones, but produce no symptoms. Adrenal adenoma symptoms may vary with the nature and amount of hormones produced by the functional types. These hormones include cortisol, androgens, aldosterone, etc.
- Most common among the symptoms of adrenal adenoma is Cushing’s syndrome, that is caused by excessive production of the hormone cortisol. This condition is characterized by obesity, especially, in the upper part of the body. Other symptoms include a fatty hump, rounded face, excessive sweating, facial hair growth, hypertension, high blood sugar, extreme fatigue, psychological problems, etc.
- If the hormone aldosterone is produced in excess amounts, Conn’s syndrome may develop. The symptoms of this condition include hypertension, hypokalemia, muscle weakness and nocturia.
- If androgens are produced excessively, women with such this adenoma may develop acne and excess growth of body hair. Adrenal adenoma symptoms in women include menstrual disorders too.
- In some cases, adrenaline is produced in large amounts, leading to symptoms like panic attacks, high blood pressure, headaches, etc. In very high amounts, this hormone may lead to a heart attack and even death.
- Rarely, the interiors of the adrenal adenoma bleed, causing pain in the lower back and sides. If estrogen is secreted in large amounts, affected men may develop breasts and may also suffer from decreased sexual desire and erectile dysfunction.
Adrenal adenoma treatment may vary with the type of the adenoma. Larger adenomas are often removed surgically. The same applies to those which are hormonally active, malignant ones and the bleeding ones. Tiny non functional ones are often left untreated, but are monitored regularly. This article is for informational purposes and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. So, if you have any doubts with regard to this condition, approach a physician.