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What are adrenal glands and the symptoms of adrenal dysfunction?

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Quick Answer

The adrenal glands are two hormone-producing glands within the body, according to MedlinePlus. Adrenal gland dysfunction is generally characterized by the glands failing to produce sufficient quantities of hormones, which can be caused by Addison's disease, Cushing's syndrome, hirsutism, hyperglycemia and Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome.

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Full Answer

The adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones, including testosterone, cortisol, aldosterone, norepinephrine and epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, states MedlinePlus.

A controversial syndrome, known as adrenal fatigue, is not currently recognized by the medical community, according to WebMD. Alleged symptoms of adrenal fatigue include nervousness, body aches, fatigue and sleep disturbances.

Adrenal insufficiency, also known as Addison's disease, is a medically accepted diagnosis, and is characterized by weight loss, fatigue, loss of body hair, lightheadedness, low blood pressure and skin discoloration, states Mayo Clinic. Proponents of the adrenal fatigue diagnosis believe that adrenal fatigue is a less severe form of adrenal insufficiency. The hypothesis is that adrenal fatigue is caused by chronic stress, which in turn causes a constant, overactive fight-or-flight response.

In addition to Addisons's disease, adrenal insufficiency may also be caused by congenital adrenal hyperplasia, says Wikipedia, which lists slightly different symptoms relating to adrenal insufficiency, including muscle weakness, depression, vomiting, changes in mood and personality, and possibly shock resulting from an adrenal crisis.

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