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Adrenal glands

The adrenal glands are two small 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.

The pituitary, a small gland at the bottom of the brain, releases a hormone called ACTH that is important in stimulating the adrenal cortex.

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.

Review Date 5/17/2018

Updated by: Brent Wisse, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Nutrition, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.