The human body is a very complicated construct in which many components interact, these components encompassing all the organs and each one fulfilling a specific function. There are some organs whose failures would cause the whole mechanism to completely collapse and eventually die. These adrenal glands include the adrenals.

What is an adrenal gland?

Schematic representation of the anatomy and structure of the adrenals. Click to enlarge.

The Latin names of the adrenals are Glandula suprarenalis and Glandula adrenalis, respectively. This organ is a paired hormone gland, which in humans is located above the upper poles of the kidneys.

The adrenal gland is subordinate to the autonomic nervous system and the hormonal regulation. It consists of two organs, which differ functionally.

While the adrenal medulla is one of the sympathetic nervous systems and its main functions are the production of epinephrine and norepinephrine, the adrenal cortex participates in the sugar, water and mineral metabolism and in the production of steroid hormones.

Anatomy & Construction

These two functionally different organs are located in separate subregions of the adrenals.

Anatomically, it consists of an outer and an inner part. The inner part gets the name adrenal medulla, while the outer part is called the adrenal cortex.

The adrenal medulla is built up from a juxtaposition of nerve cells and thus basically counts to the nervous system. The adrenal cortex, on the other hand, consists of 3 different layers, which, however, can be clearly distinguished from one another only on closer inspection under the microscope.

Functions & Tasks

Both are not only structurally different, but also each have different functions. The adrenal cortex is mainly used for hormone production. Among the many hormones produced are sex hormones and the hormones aldosterone and cortisol.

Aldosterone is one of the mineral corticosteroids and controls the body's salt balance, whereby the affected salt types are potassium and sodium. It also has an effect on blood pressure, as it simultaneously causes increased retention of water through increased retention of sodium in the kidney region in the body.

In contrast, the main task of cortisol is to allocate sugar as an energy source. This process is accomplished by inducing stimulation in the area of ​​gluconeogenesis. These body's stores are made to produce sugar. Further sugar is produced by the fat loss and the degradation of the body's own sugar deposits. In both cases energy is gained.

In addition, cortisone has other functions such as increasing the effect of stress hormones such as adrenaline and an anti-inflammatory effect by damping the entire immune system. The adrenal cortex also produces sex hormones. In the adrenal medulla, a production of transmitters, which are also referred to as messengers.

The hormones formed here belong to the biogenic amines and are released from the adrenal medulla into the bloodstream. The adrenal medulla also produces the stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine, which are then released when the body is in an alarm situation.

Diseases

Since many different hormones are produced in the adrenal gland, it can also cause disturbances in a wide variety of variations. Diseases are either associated with hypofunction or hyperfunction of the organ.

The most significant of these are tumors, as these can lead to hyperfunction of the kidney and in extreme cases by displacement of the adrenal tissue from a restriction of function to a complete adrenal failure. Examples of such diseases are hyperaldosteronism, in which there is an overproduction of aldosterone, which leads to an excessive reduction in potassium blood levels and increased blood pressure.

Another disease is hyperadrenocorticism, in which increased glucorticoid production occurs. Based on an elevated blood sugar level, muscle and bone breakdown and skin changes, this form is recognizable. Another disease that manifests itself in sudden hypertension is a hypofunction of the adrenal medulla.

However, this occurs relatively rarely. Another example of adrenal gland-related disease is Waterhouse-Friderichsen syndrome, in which kidney function is severely compromised.

Typical & common kidney disease

  • Kidney failure (renal insufficiency)
  • Acute kidney failure
  • Chronic renal insufficiency (chronic renal failure)
  • Pyelonephritis
  • nephritis
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