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Overactive Adrenal Gland

The condition of an overactive adrenal gland may also be referred to as 'Cushing's syndrome'. What is this condition and how can this be dealt with? The answers lie ahead...
What is an overactive adrenal gland? The adrenal gland is one of the many glands of the endocrine system. All these glands work to produce hormones which are vital for several important functions in the body. The adrenal gland produces what is known as cortisol including a number of other hormones. This particular hormone has many vital functions to play in the normal processes of the human body. Common ones include managing the function of the cardiovascular system and helping the body to handle stress. Cortisol is also responsible for the process which metabolize proteins, carbohydrates and fats into usable energy. But there are certain factors which cause the adrenal glands to over work and produce excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol.

Symptoms

People with overactive adrenal gland tend to gain weight around their midsection and upper back and they also suffer from muscle weakness and adrenal fatigue. One of the classic symptoms of this condition is the development of a very round face, which may also be attributed as 'moon face'. This may be accompanied by facial flushing, occurrence of a fatty pad or a hump like structure in the area between the shoulders. The area of the skin around abdomen, thighs, breasts and arms may appear to bear pink or purple stretch marks and the skin may become usually fragile thus, bruising easily. The healing of any wound or bites slows down and there might also be frequent acne outbreaks.

An overactive adrenal gland may also cause psychological effects on the sufferer. The excessive adrenal activity may cause the affected person to become more depressive, anxious and irritable for no reasons. In other words, this hormonal imbalance causes the sufferer to lose control of his emotions. Affected females may experience missed or irregular menstrual periods and males might face erectile dysfunctions. Low sex drive, aggravated high blood pressure, headache, bone loss and incidence of diabetes are the other symptoms of this condition.

Treatment

As obvious it is, the treatment involves bringing down the elevated cortisol levels in the body. It also involves diagnosing the underlying causes and correcting them. For instance, prolonged use of corticosteroid medications may cause the adrenal gland to become overactive. So, reducing the dosage over a period of time, is what doctors advice to control the symptoms. A adrenal gland tumor may also be the cause of this disorder. A surgical removal of the tumor would be the course of the treatment in this case. Post-operation, the sufferer may be put on cortisol replacement medications. This is to provide the body with the required amount of the hormone cortisol. Once the normal production resumes, the drugs can be discontinued.

In some cases, a surgical procedure is not enough to remove a tumor that has caused the condition. In such a case, doctors may opt for using radiation therapy in conjunction with the operation. The radiation is moreover, suitable for patients who are not ready, physically or mentally, to go for any surgery.

Sometimes, when the above treatment methods do not yield appreciable results, the sufferer may be put on a drug therapy. This helps to improve and relieve the symptoms. Finally, when all methods have exhausted, the last resort, which the doctor may advice for complete removal of the affected adrenal gland.

The condition of overactive adrenal gland does not take time to turn fatal, unless it is treated in time and with the correct medical procedure. In most cases after treatment, symptoms do improve and the patient can resume his/her normal life.
By Rajib Singha
Published: 7/10/2010
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