The adrenal glands are two triangle-shaped glands. One gland is located on top of each kidney.
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.
Conditions related to adrenal gland problems include:
- Addison disease (also called adrenal insufficiency)
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia
- Cushing syndrome
- Diabetes - caused by another medical problem
- Glucocorticoid medicines
- Excessive or unwanted hair in women (hirsutism)
- Hump behind shoulders (dorsocervical fat pad)
- Primary aldosteronism (Conn syndrome)
- Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome
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 5/17/2016
Updated by: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.