Adrenal hormones

There is an adrenal gland situated above each kidney. The adrenal is an important endocrine organ as it produces hormones that control our blood mineral concentration, such as sodium (salt), potassium as well as controlling acid-base balance. It also regulates our blood volume and therefore, blood pressure. It produces adrenal androgens (male hormones, which include DHEA, androstenedione and testosterone. Testosterone is predominantly produced by the testes, but a little is produced by the adrenals.

Effects of excess adrenal androgens are mainly felt by females, who often complain of excessive hair growth (hirsutism) male-pattern frontal balding and irregular menstruation.

Disorders of adrenal glands may be medication induced, such as from prolonged and excessive steroid use-both corticosteroid or anabolic steroids. Or they may be due to adrenal tumours or pituitary tumours, causing secondary adrenal pathology. Or they can arise from an inherited error of adrenal steroid metabolism.

Disorders of adrenal glands can be effectively screened for and diagnosed by an endocrinologist.