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What are the symptoms of adrenal gland disorders?

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When the adrenal glands produce too many hormones, the symptoms vary depending on the disorder. These include:

Cushing’s Syndrome

Common symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome (due to an adrenal, pituitary, or ectopic tumor) can include:

  • Upper body obesity, round face and neck, and thinning arms and legs
  • Skin problems, such as acne or reddish-blue streaks on the abdomen or underarm area
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle and bone weakness
  • Moodiness, irritability, or depression
  • High blood sugars
  • Slow growth rates in children

Women may also have increased growth of hair on their face and body and experience menstrual irregularities. Men may become less fertile and have a reduced or absent sex drive.


The main symptom is moderate to high blood pressure (hypertension), which can be difficult to control. Other symptoms include:

  • Low potassium levels
  • Muscle cramping or spasms
  • Excessive urination, sometimes at night
  • Headache
  • Generalized weakness

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH)

Symptoms of CAH range from mild to serious. Some people with mild CAH are never diagnosed because their symptoms do not cause them any problems.

Symptoms of the mild form of CAH, which can be diagnosed in children or adults, may include1:

  • Shorter than average final height
  • Early signs of puberty (in children)
  • Acne
  • Irregular menstrual periods and possible trouble getting pregnant (in women)
  • Excess facial hair (in women)

Symptoms of the severe form of CAH, which is diagnosed in children, may include1:

  • Dehydration
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood sugar level
  • Trouble keeping enough salt in the body
  • Altered development of the external genitalia in girls, which is noted at birth and may require surgery to correct
  • Shorter than average final height
  • Early signs of puberty
  • Irregular periods and possible trouble getting pregnant (in women)
  • Excess facial hair (in women)
  • Benign testicular tumors and infertility (in men)


Most people with pheochromocytoma have high blood pressure (hypertension) because the tumor causes the adrenal gland to produce too much adrenaline or noradrenaline. Other symptoms may include2:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Episodes of high or low blood pressure
  • Anxiety or panic attack
  • Shaking (tremors) of the hands
  • Pale skin
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal pain
  • High blood sugar
  • Psychiatric disturbances

Addison’s Disease

Symptoms can vary, depending on what causes the disease. Symptoms typically include3,4:

  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Patches of darker skin
  • Craving for salt
  • Dizziness upon standing
  • Depression

  1. CARES Foundation. (2007). CAH: An incredibly common yet relatively unknown disorder. Retrieved June 1, 2012, from External Web Site Policy [top]
  2. Pacak, K., Linehan, W. M., Eisenhofer, G., Walther, M. M., & Goldstein, D. S. (2001). Recent advances in genetics, diagnosis, localization, and treatment of pheochromocytoma. Annals of Internal Medicine. 134, 315-329. [top]
  3. National Library of Medicine. (2012). Addison’s disease. Retrieved June 29, 2012, from [top]
  4. EndocrineWeb. (2011). Addison’s disease and adrenal insufficiency overview. Retrieved July 3, 2012, from External Web Site Policy [top]

Last Reviewed: 09/30/2013
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