The adrenal glands are very small triangle shaped structures located immediately adjacent to the kidneys. The adrenal glands are hormonal powerhouses, and secrete multiple hormones that play a role in everything from blood pressure control, to electrolyte and blood sugar balance, to cardiac and muscle function (and many others!). The outer layer of the adrenal gland, known as the cortex, produces cortisol, aldosterone, and adrenal androgens. The inner layer, or medulla, produces catecholamines, colloquially known as adrenaline.
There are multiple potential disorders associated with the adrenal glands, and each is characterized by either overproduction or underproduction of one or more of these unique hormones. Symptoms are multiple, but all can be treated.
The pituitary gland is the master controller of the majority of the hormonal glands in the body, including the thyroid, gonads (testicles/ovaries), and adrenal glands. It is located in the base of the brain and dangles from a structure known as the pituitary stalk – think of a ball on a string. The pituitary gland senses how well each individual hormonal gland is functioning, and sends signals to the gland telling it to either increase, decrease, or hold steady its hormonal production. This is a very elegant system known as a feedback loop, where the pituitary both senses hormonal production from other glands and then controls function of those glands based on the body’s needs.
The pituitary can be damaged by trauma, infection, tumors, and many other things. A dysfunctional pituitary glands almost always results in multiple hormonal problems.