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Adrenal adenoma

Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.

What is Adrenal adenoma?

Your adrenal glands are located just above your kidneys, triangular in shape, and responsible for releasing hormones in response to stress along with sex hormones. These glands are approximately one and a half inches tall and three inches wide. There are two parts to an adrenal gland; the cortex and the inner medulla. An adrenal adenoma is a non-cancerous, or benign, tumor of your adrenal gland that develops in the cortex of this gland. Some adrenal adenomas do not secrete hormones, which are referred to as non-functioning adrenal adenomas. Depending on the type of hormone secreted, the adrenal adenoma tumor can cause people to have different medical problems. Although this tumor can develop at any age it is prominently seen in elderly people.

Adrenal adenoma Symptoms

When a person has an adrenal adenoma they may or may not have symptoms. It all depends on whether the tumor is functional or non-functional. Most of the time when a person has symptoms the adrenal adenomas is functional. There is a possibility that a functional tumor has no symptoms but is still putting out a large amount of hormones. When there are symptoms, what they are will depend on the amount of hormones being produced, the nature of the hormones, and the disease or syndrome caused by the hormones. The hormones can include androgens, cortisol, aldosterone, and more.

Cushing’s syndrome

This is also known as hyperadrenocorticism or hypercorticism. This syndrome is caused by excessive production cortisol that is found in your blood. If you have this syndrome some of the symptoms that are associated with it may be:

  • Rapid weight gain or obesity, especially in the upper part of your body such as your face and torso but not in your limps.
  • A fatty hump along the back of your neck and collar bone called buffalo hump.
  • Rounded face
  • Sweating excessively
  • Growth of facial hair
  • Hypertension also known as high blood pressure.
  • A high blood sugar
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Psychological problems such as insomnia, depression, loss of libido, anxiety, etc.
  • Thinning of your mucous membranes and skin.
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Impair the healing of wounds
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Osteoporosis.

Conn’s Syndrome

This syndrome is the result of the adrenal adenoma releasing aldosterone. It is also referred to as primary aldosteronism. If you have this syndrome it can cause low calcium levels and sodium retention. Some of the symptoms that can result from this syndrome include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness and cramps


This syndrome is caused by the adrenal adenoma secreting androgens. Some of the symptoms that may occur with this syndrome include:

  • Excessive growth of body hair if women have this syndrome.
  • On your scalp you may have a loss of hair growth.
  • A voice that is deepened
  • Acne if women have this syndrome.
  • Infertility
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Acne
  • Menstrual disorders

In women this can also cause her breasts or uterus to shrink.

General symptoms

If a person produces too much adrenaline a person may have symptoms such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Panic attacks

If there is an excessive amount of adrenaline produced it could lead to a person having a heart attack and maybe even dying.

It is rare that the interiors of an adrenal adenoma bleed which could cause pain in your sides and lower back. A man could suffer from erectile dysfunction, a decrease in their sexual drive, and even develop breasts if estrogen is secreted in a large amount from the adrenal adenoma.

Adrenal adenoma Causes

The exact cause of a person developing an adrenal adenoma is not known there are several different factors that researchers and physicians feel is behind this medical condition. Some of these factors may include:

  • A mutation of some genes that are unknown.
  • As you age your chances of developing a adrenal adenoma increases.
  • Inherited diseases such as Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Carney complex, or multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1.
  • Genetic defects such as congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

Adrenal adenoma Diagnosis

If you think that you are having a problem with your adrenal gland and visit your physician they can make a definite diagnosis by doing a magnetic-resonance imaging (MRI) or a computed-tomography (CT) of your abdomen. The physician will also do blood work to check the hormone levels in your body. The physician may also opt to have an adrenal biopsy done because this is the most effective way to check for any infections in your adrenal gland that could cause adrenal adenoma.

Adrenal adenoma Treatment

If your adrenal adenoma is releasing any type of hormones or is considered to be a”functional” adrenal adenoma, they can usually treat the symptoms simply by surgically removing the adrenal adenoma. This procedure is called an adrenalectomy. Normally the adrenal adenoma is little enough to be removed through very small incisions. This is the only treatment to rid your body of an adrenal adenoma. This procedure is called a laparoscopy. The two main surgeries performed to get rid of an adrenal adenoma are abdominal laparotomy and laparoscopic adrenalectomy. Approximately eighty percent of the adrenal adenoma tumors are non-functioning and will not cause any harm or problems to a person. When a person has surgery to remove the adrenal adenoma, in most cases it is a success. After treatment you need to keep your scheduled appointments and keep the abnormal hormone production under control.


adrenal adenoma

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