Adrenal Disorder Patient Guide
Adrenal disorders and treatments can be complex. Learning as much as possible helps you take an active role in your care and feel more confident about making care decisions.
Read our answers to common questions about adrenal disorders. If you have additional questions, a member of our team can assist you.
Common questions include:
"Adrenal fatigue" is a term used to describe what it feels like when stress from everyday life makes you sick. Many people experience exhaustion, poor sleep and stomach problems. But these symptoms are likely due to your body's natural response to stress. There is no evidence supporting the idea that ongoing stress damages your adrenal glands.
Certain steroid medications such as prednisone reduce inflammation from allergies, arthritis and skin problems, such as psoriasis. However, there can be complications:
- Lack of cortisol: Taking these steroid medications for too long can cause the adrenal glands to stop producing cortisol, creating adrenal insufficiency. This condition is associated with fatigue, lack of appetite, pain and low blood pressure.
- Cushing's syndrome: Taking these steroid medications for too long and in higher doses can lead to too much cortisol in the blood. This condition is called Cushing’s syndrome and is associated with weight gain, high blood pressure, high lipid levels, osteoporosis and diabetes.
If you regularly take these steroid medications, we perform an evaluation to help you learn whether you are at risk for complications. We can lower your risk by gradually reducing the dose. We might also work with your care team to switch your medication.
Some adrenal disorders and cancers run in families. Our team will help you work with a board-certified genetic counselor with experience in adrenal disorders. We help you decide whether genetic testing is right for you.
Genetic testing lets you know whether you carry the genes responsible for adrenal disorders and how to manage your risk. If you already have a diagnosis, testing helps your care team learn more about the treatments that are best for you. A genetic counselor explains the results and helps you make important decisions about the next steps in your care.
We may also recommend that family members undergo genetic testing to see if they carry these genes. Testing allows your loved ones to know more about their adrenal disorder risk and receive timely care if they need it.
Our team has experience diagnosing and treating many forms of benign and malignant adrenal tumors. This includes adrenal tumors that produce hormones and those that do not. We offer comprehensive and sophisticated tests for an accurate diagnosis. And you receive coordinated treatments that reflect the recommendations of our adrenal experts, cancer doctors (oncologists), surgeons and other specialists.
Your care may include a combination of surgery to remove the tumor (and possibly the adrenal gland) along with hormone therapy. For complex cancers, our participation in research means you have access to new adrenal cancer treatments before they are widely available.
Adrenal crisis is a life-threatening complication of adrenal insufficiency. It occurs when you do not have enough cortisol for your body to function in times of physical or mental stress. Our adrenal disorder experts help patients with adrenal insufficiency stay as healthy as possible with a care plan that includes:
- Personalized treatments: You take medications in doses that are appropriate for your needs.
- Education: Our team explains how adrenal insufficiency can affect your wellbeing and how medications help you stay healthy. We explain when you may need a higher dose of medication, such as when you have an infection or need surgery.
- Prevention: We develop a lasting relationship with you through regular visits. We adjust your care plan as your needs change.