Information for Patients
Adrenal Gland Disorders
The adrenal glands are small glands located on top of each kidney. They produce hormones that you can't live without, including sex hormones and cortisol. Cortisol helps you respond to stress and has many other important functions.
With adrenal gland disorders, your glands make too much or not enough hormones. In Cushing's syndrome, there's too much cortisol, while with Addison's disease, there is too little. Some people are born unable to make enough cortisol.
Causes of adrenal gland disorders include
- Genetic mutations
- Tumors including pheochromocytomas
- A problem in another gland, such as the pituitary, which helps to regulate the adrenal gland
- Certain medicines
Treatment depends on which problem you have. Surgery or medicines can treat many adrenal gland disorders.
NIH: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
A birth defect is a problem that happens while a baby is developing in the mother's body. Most birth defects happen during the first 3 months of pregnancy. One out of every 33 babies in the United States is born with a birth defect.
A birth defect may affect how the body looks, works or both. Some birth defects like cleft lip or neural tube defects are structural problems that can be easy to see. To find others, like heart defects, doctors use special tests. Birth defects can range from mild to severe. Causes can include
- Exposures to medicines or chemicals. For example, alcohol abuse can cause fetal alcohol syndrome.
- Infections during pregnancy
- Certain medicines. Before you get pregnant, talk to your health care provider about any medicines you take.
- Not getting enough of certain nutrients. For example, not getting enough folic acid before and during pregnancy is a key factor in causing neural tube defects.
For most birth defects, the cause is unknown.
Health care providers can diagnose certain birth defects during pregnancy, with prenatal tests. That's why it important to get regular prenatal care. Other birth defects may not be found until after the baby is born. Sometimes the defect is obvious right away. Other times, the health care provider may not discover it until later in life.
Babies with birth defects often need special care and treatments. The treatments may include surgery, medicines, assistive devices, and therapies.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
21-hydroxylase deficiency 21-hydroxylase deficiency is an inherited disorder that affects the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys and produce a variety of hormones that regulate many essential functions in the body. In people with 21-hydroxylase deficiency, the adrenal glands produce excess androgens, which are male sex hormones.There are three types of 21-hydroxylase deficiency. Two types are classic forms, known as the salt-wasting and simple virilizing types. The third type is called the non-classic type. The salt-wasting type is the most severe, the simple virilizing type is less severe, and the non-classic type is the least severe form.Males and females with either classic form of 21-hydroxylase deficiency tend to have an early growth spurt, but their final adult height is usually shorter than others in their family. Additionally, affected individuals may have a reduced ability to have biological children (decreased fertility). Females may also develop excessive body hair growth (hirsutism), male pattern baldness, and irregular menstruation.Approximately 75 percent of individuals with classic 21-hydroxylase deficiency have the salt-wasting type. Hormone production is extremely low in this form of the disorder. Affected individuals lose large amounts of sodium in their urine, which can be life-threatening in early infancy. Babies with the salt-wasting type can experience poor feeding, weight loss, dehydration, and vomiting. Individuals with the simple virilizing form do not experience salt loss.In both the salt-wasting and simple virilizing forms of this disorder, females typically have external genitalia that do not look clearly male or female (ambiguous genitalia). Males usually have normal genitalia, but the testes may be small.Females with the non-classic type of 21-hydroxylase deficiency have normal female genitalia. As affected females get older, they may experience hirsutism, male pattern baldness, irregular menstruation, and decreased fertility. Males with the non-classic type may have early beard growth and small testes. Some individuals with this type of 21-hydroxylase deficiency have no symptoms of the disorder.
3-beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase deficiency 3-beta (β)-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (HSD) deficiency is an inherited disorder that affects hormone-producing glands including the gonads (ovaries in females and testes in males) and the adrenal glands. The gonads direct sexual development before birth and during puberty. The adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys, regulate the production of certain hormones and control salt levels in the body. People with 3β-HSD deficiency lack many of the hormones that are made in these glands. 3β-HSD deficiency is one of a group of disorders known as congenital adrenal hyperplasias that impair hormone production and disrupt sexual development and maturation.There are three types of 3β-HSD deficiency: the salt-wasting, non-salt-wasting, and non-classic types. In the salt-wasting type, hormone production is extremely low. Individuals with this type lose large amounts of sodium in their urine, which can be life-threatening. Individuals affected with the salt-wasting type are usually diagnosed soon after birth due to complications related to a lack of salt reabsorption, including dehydration, poor feeding, and vomiting. People with the non-salt-wasting type of 3β-HSD deficiency produce enough hormone to allow sodium reabsorption in the kidneys. Individuals with the non-classic type have the mildest symptoms and do not experience salt wasting.In males with any type of 3β-HSD deficiency, problems with male sex hormones lead to abnormalities of the external genitalia. These abnormalities range from having the opening of the urethra on the underside of the penis (hypospadias) to having external genitalia that do not look clearly male or female (ambiguous genitalia). The severity of the genital abnormality does not consistently depend on the type of the condition. Because of the hormone dysfunction in the testes, males with 3β-HSD deficiency are frequently unable to have biological children (infertile).Females with 3β-HSD deficiency may have slight abnormalities of the external genitalia at birth. Females affected with the non-salt-wasting or non-classic types are typically not diagnosed until mid-childhood or puberty, when they may experience irregular menstruation, premature pubic hair growth, and excessive body hair growth (hirsutism). Females with 3β-HSD deficiency have difficulty conceiving a child (impaired fertility).
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia due to 11-beta-hydroxylase deficiency Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) due to 11-beta-hydroxylase deficiency is one of a group of disorders (collectively called congenital adrenal hyperplasia) that affect the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are located on top of the kidneys and produce a variety of hormones that regulate many essential functions in the body. In people with CAH due to 11-beta-hydroxylase deficiency, the adrenal glands produce excess androgens, which are male sex hormones.There are two types of CAH due to 11-beta-hydroxylase deficiency, the classic form and the non-classic form. The classic form is the more severe of the two types.Females with the classic form of CAH due to 11-beta-hydroxylase deficiency have external genitalia that do not look clearly male or female (atypical genitalia). However, the internal reproductive organs develop normally. Males and females with the classic form of this condition have early development of their secondary sexual characteristics such as growth of facial and pubic hair, deepening of the voice, appearance of acne, and onset of a growth spurt. The early growth spurt can prevent growth later in adolescence and lead to short stature in adulthood. In addition, approximately two-thirds of individuals with the classic form of CAH due to 11-beta-hydroxylase deficiency have high blood pressure (hypertension). Hypertension typically develops within the first year of life.Females with the non-classic form of CAH due to 11-beta-hydroxylase deficiency have normal female genitalia. As affected females get older, they may develop excessive body hair growth (hirsutism) and irregular menstruation. Males with the non-classic form of this condition do not typically have any signs or symptoms except for short stature. Hypertension is not a feature of the non-classic form of CAH due to 11-beta-hydroxylase deficiency.