Adrenal Gland Overactivity

What is overactive Adrenal Glands?

When adrenal glands produce excessive amounts of particular hormones, they are called "overactive." Symptoms and treatment depend on which hormones are being overproduced.

  • Androgenic steroids (androgen hormones)

 An overproduction of androgenic steroids, such as testosterone, can lead to exaggerated male characteristics in both men and women, such as facial and body hair, baldness, acne, deeper voice, and more muscularity.

  • Corticosteroids

An overproduction of corticosteroids can lead to Cushing's syndrome.

  • Aldosterone

An overproduction of the aldosterone hormone can lead to high blood pressure and symptoms associated with low levels of potassium, such as weakness, muscle aches, spasms, and sometimes paralysis.


Treatment will depend on the cause of the disease and source of the overproduction of cortisol.

Treatment may include surgical removal of growths or the adrenal gland(s). If external steroid use is determined to be the cause, gradual tapering and removal of the steroid may be recommended. Certain drugs that block the excessive production of certain hormones may also be administered.

What is Cushing's Syndrome? 

Cushing's syndrome happens when there is excessive amounts of corticosteroids in the body. The main cause is overproduction of adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH) in the pituitary gland. ACTH causes the adrenal glands to produce corticosteroids, and too much of ACTH leads to excessive corticosteroids. Long-term external steroid use like prednisone (used in some chronic diseases) can also cause Cushing's. In addition, certain lung cancers and other tumors outside the pituitary gland may produce corticotropins. Other causes include benign or cancerous tumors on the adrenal glands. Rarely, Cushing syndrome can be an inherited endocrine disorder. 

Symptoms of Cushing's Syndrome

  • Upper body obesity

  • Round face

  • Increased fat around neck or a fatty hump between the shoulders 

  • Thinning arms and legs

  • Fragile and thin skin

  • Stretch marks on abdomen, thighs, buttocks, arms, and breasts

  • Bone and muscle weakness

  • Severe fatigue

  • High blood pressure

  • High blood sugar

  • Irritability and anxiety

  • Excess facial and body hair growth in women

  • Irregular or stopped menstrual cycles in women

  • Reduced sex drive and fertility in men