Diseases of the adrenal glands

There are two adrenal glands in the abdomen, above each kidney. They produce several hormones that are vital to the body.  

The adrenal glands consist of two parts: the cortex (adrenal cortex) and in the center, the medulla (adrenal medulla). They have different functions:  

The adrenal cortex secretes three types of hormones that are essential for the body:  cortisol, aldosterone and androgens. They are in charge of metabolizing glucose (storing sugars), breaking down proteins, and regulating fat and blood pressure.

The adrenal medulla produces two hormones:  adrenaline and noradrenaline. Also known as stress hormones, they allow the body to defend itself in case of aggression by increasing the heart rate and blood pressure.

Diseases of the adrenal glands are caused by hormonal imbalance. There are two types:  hyposecretory diseases (insufficiency of hormonal secretion) and  hypersecretory diseases (excess of hormonal secretion). Hypersecretory diseases are generally treated with surgery.

The adrenal glands can also develop nodules. In certain cases, adrenal nodules must be removed because of their size or suspicious or cancerous nature. 

Performing surgery on the adrenal glands is complex and requires in-depth knowledge. At the HUG, treatment combines the expertise of surgeons, anesthesiologists and endocrinologists.

Last update : 15/08/2019