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What is adrenal gland failure?

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Quick Answer

When the adrenal glands are unable to produce enough hormones to control important functions of the body it is called adrenal failure, according to MedicineNet. The hormones secreted by the adrenal glands affect many different organs so an insufficiency can cause numerous symptoms.

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Full Answer

MayoClinic explains that adrenal insufficiency can be either primary or secondary. Primary insufficiency, also called Addison's Disease, occurs when the adrenal glands are damaged and unable to produce enough hormone. Primary adrenal insufficiency can be caused by autoimmune diseases, tuberculosis, infections or cancer. Secondary adrenal insufficiency is a result of a diseased pituitary gland. When the pituitary gland is unable to produce enough of the hormone responsible for stimulating the adrenal glands, an insufficiency develops. Secondary adrenal insufficiency can also occur when a person taking a corticosteroid medication stops it abruptly.

The National Institute of Health describes the symptoms of adrenal insufficiency as varied, with the most common being chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss and abdominal pain. A sudden worsening of symptoms is called an adrenal crisis. This situation is life-threatening and medical care should be sought immediately.

Treatment of adrenal insufficiency consists of replacing the hormones the adrenal glands aren't producing, states MayoClinic. Corticosteroids and androgen replacement are some options available.

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