Adrenal Disorders

The Adrenal Disorders section provides students with High Yield information needed for USMLE, COMLEX, College, Medical School, Residency, and as a practicing Physician.

Primary Hyperaldosteronism

Conn’s Syndrome
  • – Pathway/Axis:
    • Hypothalamus/Pituitary/Adrenal gland (HPA axis)
  • – Major cause:
    • small tumor found on the adrenal cortex in the majority of patients.
    • Excess production of aldosterone by tumor leads to the development of the disease with high blood pressure and low potassium levels.
  • Risk:
    • adrenal hyperplasia – an abnormal function of the adrenal cortex 
  • – Major symptoms:
    • High blood pressure with low potassium. Other symptoms can include muscle weakness and headaches.

Secondary Hyperaldosteronism

Primary Adrenal Insufficiency

Addison’s disease (hypocortisolism)

Adrenal Crisis (Acute Addison’s)
  • Management:
    • Hydrocortisone IV every 6-8hrs
    • IVF
    • Glucose

Secondary Adrenocortical Insufficiency

Pituitary Hyperplasia

Cushing’s Disease
  • – Pathway/Axis:
    • Hypothalamus/Pituitary/adrenal axis (HPA)
  • – Major cause:
    • tumor on the pituitary gland or pituitary hyperplasia.
    • Causes excess release of ACTH which acts on the adrenal gland to release cortisol.
    • Excess ACTH results in excess cortisol which is involved with the way the body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins during stressful situations.
  • – Major symptoms:
    • obesity of upper body and thin arms/legs.
    • Round red face and children may experience slow growth.
    • acne, easy bruising, and purple marks on the skin known as striae.
    • Suffer from muscle and bone pain including weakness, or backaches.
    • Excess fat collection between shoulder blades.
    • Fatigue, mental changes, headaches, polydipsia, and polyuria
    • Men – decreased libido and impotence.
    • Women – excess hair growth and irregular menstrual cycles.
  • Management:

Adrenal Mass

Adrenocortical Carcinoma


  • – Pathway/Axis:
    • catecholamines (mainly norepinephrine)
  • – Major cause:
    • neurohormone tumor of the medulla of the adrenal gland. Or extra-adrenal chromaffin tissue that filed to curl up after birth, secreting high amounts of catecholamines, mainly norepinephrine and epinephrine.
  • – Major symptoms:
    • elevated heart-rate/blood pressure, anxiety, excessive sweating, headaches, weight loss, palpitations. Spells vary from several times a day to monthly, lasting from seconds to hours, with spells occurring more frequently as the tumor grows.
  • Management: