Given Adrenal Symptoms, Blood Test Recommended

adrenal-glands

 

Q: My husband’s recent CT scan of his stomach and digestive system revealed that he has nodules on both adrenal glands. It was suggested that he undergo a blood test to determine whether the nodules are producing hormones.

For 21 months, he has experienced high blood pressure, nausea, diarrhea, anxiety and abdominal pain. Could this be the source of his problems? If so, what course of action would you recommend?

A: The adrenal gland is responsible for the production of several essential hormones.

Tumors, or nodules, of the adrenal glands are common. They can be categorized into those that make hormones and those that don’t, and also by whether the tumors are benign or malignant.

The most common, by far, are benign, nonfunctioning tumors. These are usually discovered on an ultrasound or a CT scan obtained for some other reason.

More than 4 percent of people have an adrenal mass, and 85 percent are nonfunctional.

The symptoms that your husband has, however, raise a concern that he might have a hormone-producing tumor.

Four types of hormones are commonly produced by adrenal tumors: cortisone, aldosterone, sex hormones (estrogen or androgens) and catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine).

A cortisone-producing adrenal tumor causes Cushing’s syndrome. It usually causes weight gain, especially in the abdomen; skin changes, including striae, or “stretch marks”; high blood pressure; and a predisposition to diabetes. Anxiety and abdominal pain are uncommon.

Aldosterone raises blood pressure, so a person with a functioning adrenal tumor making aldosterone usually has high blood pressure, but the other symptoms you mention for your husband aren’t common for this type of tumor.

Adrenal tumors that make epinephrine and the related norepinephrine are called pheochromocytomas. Hypertension is almost universal with this condition, and anxiety is frequently reported.

Tumors that produce sex hormones are rare, and they are present in men with androgen excess or feminization, in the case of estrogen-secreting tumors.

Although your husband’s symptoms aren’t specific for any one condition, the combination of his symptoms and adrenal nodules concerns me.

I agree with the recommendation to look for excess amounts of hormones in the blood. This can often be achieved with a simple blood test; however, a catheter is occasionally placed in the adrenal vein to sample blood coming from the gland (and its nodule) directly.

By comparing one side against the other, doctors can determine which side might be producing excess hormones.

An endocrinologist is the expert most likely to be familiar with these conditions.

Dr. Roach answers letters only in his North America Syndicate column but provides an order form of available health newsletters at http://www.rbmamail.com. Write him at 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32853-6475; or ToYour GoodHealth@med. cornell.edu.

From http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/life_and_entertainment/2015/07/27/given-adrenal-symptoms-blood-test-recommended.html

What Causes Overweight and Obesity?

Health Conditions

Some hormone problems may cause overweight and obesity, such as underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), Cushing’s syndrome, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Underactive thyroid is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Lack of thyroid hormone will slow down your metabolism and cause weight gain. You’ll also feel tired and weak.

Cushing’s syndrome is a condition in which the body’s adrenal glands make too much of the hormone cortisol. Cushing’s syndrome also can develop if a person takes high doses of certain medicines, such as prednisone, for long periods.

People who have Cushing’s syndrome gain weight, have upper-body obesity, a rounded face, fat around the neck, and thin arms and legs.

PCOS is a condition that affects about 5–10 percent of women of childbearing age. Women who have PCOS often are obese, have excess hair growth, and have reproductive problems and other health issues. These problems are caused by high levels of hormones called androgens.

Read the entire article at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/causes

Diagnosing and Treating Cortisol Excess and Deficiency

From Day 1 of the 16th International Congress of Endocrinology and the Endocrine Society’s 96th Annual Meeting and Expo »

Chicago, IL – June 21, 2014

A phase 2 study of Chronocort®, a modified release formulation of hydrocortisone, in the treatment of adults with classic congenital adrenal hyperplasia

A Mallappa, L-A Daley, N Sinaii, C Van Ryzin, H Huatan, D Digweed, D Eckland, M Whitaker, LK Nieman, RJ Ross, DP Merke

Summary: Classic congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) due to 21-hydroxylase deficiency is characterized by cortisol and aldosterone deficiency and androgen excess. Current conventional glucocorticoid therapy is suboptimal as it cannot replace the normal cortisol circadian rhythm and inadequate or inappropriate suppression of adrenal androgens are common. In the preliminary results of a phase 2 study of Chronocort®, a modified release hydrocortisone capsule formulation, researchers found that Chronocort®, a novel modified release hydrocortisone capsule formulation, approximates physiological cortisol secretion, and improves biochemical control of CAH. Further analyses are underway.

Methods:

  • The study objectives were to characterize pharmacokinetics and examine disease control following 6 months dose titration.
  • Serial profiling was obtained at baseline (conventional glucocorticoid) and every 2 months.
  • Twice-daily Chronocort® was initiated: 20 mg at 2300 h, 10 mg at 0700 h.
  • Dose titration was based on clinical status and optimal hormonal ranges (17OHP 300-1200 ng/dL, normal androstenedione (males: 40-150, females: 30-200 ng/dL), with androstenedione prioritized.
  • Chronocort® cortisol pharmacokinetic profile was the primary endpoint.
  • Secondary endpoints included biomarkers of disease control.

Results:

  • A total of 16 adults (8 females; age 29 ±13 years) with classic CAH (12 salt-wasting, 4 simple virilizing) participated.
  • Conventional therapy varied (5 dexamethasone, 7 prednisone, 4 hydrocortisone).
  • Chronocort® cortisol pharmacokinetic profile approximated physiological cortisol secretion.
  • Ten patients required Chronocort® dose adjustments (decrease in 8, increase in 2; mean hydrocortisone equivalent dose conventional vs 6 months: 16.1 ± 6.4 vs 14.7 ± 6.4 mg/m2).
  • Serial androstenedione levels were in the normal range in 8 (50%) of patients on conventional therapy compared with 12 (75%) on Chronocort® at 6 months.
  • The majority of patients on Chronocort® achieved 17O HP levels within the normal range, rather than within the mildly elevated range currently used for management.
  • At 6 months, Chronocort® resulted in lower 24-hr (P=0.02), morning (0700-1500; P=0.008), and afternoon (1500-2300; P=0.03) area-under-the-curve androstenedione compared with conventional therapy.
  • No serious adverse events occurred.
  • Common adverse events were headache, fatigue, early awakening, and anemia.
  • Three patients had unexpected carpal tunnel syndrome, which resolved with wrist splints.

From http://www.mdlinx.com/endocrinology/conference-abstract.cfm/ZZ5BA369FDE9DE4CED82CB6A7CD5BFD1BE/16521/?utm_source=confcoveragenl&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_content=abstract-list&utm_campaign=abstract-ICE/EN2014&nonus=0#

Skeletal Maturation in Children With Cushing’s Syndrome is Not Consistently Delayed

Skeletal maturation in children with cushing syndrome is not consistently delayed: The role of corticotropin, obesity, and steroid hormones, and the effect of surgical cure.

J Pediatr. 2014 Jan 9. pii: S0022-3476(13)01500-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2013.11.065. [Epub ahead of print]

The Journal of Pediatrics, 01/22/2014 Clinical Article

Lodish MB, et al. – The aim of this study is to assess skeletal maturity by measuring bone age (BA) in children with Cushing syndrome (CS) before and 1–year after transsphenoidal surgery or adrenalectomy, and to correlate BA with hormone levels and other measurements. Contrary to common belief, endogenous CS in children appears to be associated with normal or even advanced skeletal maturation. When present, BA advancement in CS is related to obesity, insulin resistance, and elevated adrenal androgen levels and aromatization. This finding may have significant implications for treatment decisions and final height predictions in these children.

Methods

  • This case series conducted at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center included 93 children with Cushing disease (CD) (43 females; mean age, 12.3 ± 2.9 years) and 31 children with adrenocorticotropic hormone–independent CS (AICS) (22 females, mean age 10.3 ± 4.5 years).
  • BA was obtained before surgery and at follow-up.
  • Outcome measures were comparison of BA in CD vs AICS and analysis of the effects of hypercortisolism, insulin excess, body mass index, and androgen excess on BA.

Results

  • Twenty-six of the 124 children (21.0%) had advanced BA, compared with the expected general population prevalence of 2.5% (P < .0001). Only 4 of 124 (3.2%) had delayed BA.
  • The majority of children (76%) had normal BA.
  • The average BA z-score was similar in the children with CD and those with AICS (0.6 ± 1.4 vs 0.5 ± 1.8; P = .8865).
  • Body mass index SDS and normalized values of dehydroepiandrosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate, androsteonedione, estradiol, and testosterone were all significantly higher in the children with advanced BA vs those with normal or delayed BA.
  • Fifty-nine children who remained in remission from CD had follow-up BA 1.2 ± 0.3 years after transsphenoidal surgery, demonstrating decreased BA z-score (1.0 ± 1.6 vs 0.3 ± 1.4; P < .0001).

From http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24412141

Adrenal Glands

adrenal-glandsAnatomy of the adrenal glands:

Adrenal glands, which are also called suprarenal glands, are small, triangular glands located on top of both kidneys. An adrenal gland is made of two parts: the outer region is called the adrenal cortex and the inner region is called the adrenal medulla.

Function of the adrenal glands:

The adrenal glands work interactively with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the following process:

  • the hypothalamus produces corticotropin-releasing hormones, which stimulate the pituitary gland.
  • the pituitary gland, in turn, produces corticotropin hormones, which stimulate the adrenal glands to produce corticosteroid hormones.

Both parts of the adrenal glands — the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla — perform very separate functions.

What is the adrenal cortex?

The adrenal cortex, the outer portion of the adrenal gland, secretes hormones that have an effect on the body’s metabolism, on chemicals in the blood, and on certain body characteristics. The adrenal cortex secretes corticosteroids and other hormones directly into the bloodstream. The hormones produced by the adrenal cortex include:

  • corticosteroid hormones
    • hydrocortisone hormone – this hormone, also known as cortisol, controls the body’s use of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
    • corticosterone – this hormone, together with hydrocortisone hormones, suppresses inflammatory reactions in the body and also affects the immune system.
  • aldosterone hormone – this hormone inhibits the level of sodium excreted into the urine, maintaining blood volume and blood pressure.
  • androgenic steroids (androgen hormones) – these hormones have minimal effect on the development of male characteristics.

What is the adrenal medulla?

The adrenal medulla, the inner part of the adrenal gland, is not essential to life, but helps a person in coping with physical and emotional stress. The adrenal medulla secretes the following hormones:

  • epinephrine (also called adrenaline) – this hormone increases the heart rate and force of heart contractions, facilitates blood flow to the muscles and brain, causes relaxation of smooth muscles, helps with conversion of glycogen to glucose in the liver, and other activities.
  • norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline) – this hormone has little effect on smooth muscle, metabolic processes, and cardiac output, but has strong vasoconstrictive effects, thus increasing blood pressure.

From: University of Maryland Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology

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