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The Human Adrenal Gland

What are the Adrenal Glands?

The adrenal glands are endocrine glands that produce hormones. A hormone is a chemical messenger. Each hormone influences specific organs or tissues, thus regulating a certain body process.

The adrenal glands are shaped like a boomerang and located on top of each kidney. The adrenal glands are about the size of the end of your thumb.

The adrenal glands produce hormones that affect almost every system in your body. When the adrenal glands fail to work properly, serious diseases and disorders can develop.

One of the hormones that the adrenal glands secretes is called adrenaline. Adrenaline produces a sudden and remarkable burst of energy.

Outer and Inner layer

The adrenal glands consists of two portions: the inner core (medulla) and the outer layer (cortex).

The inner core of the adrenal gland produces hormones called catecholamines. The 2 most important catecholamines are: adrenaline and noradrenaline. Physical and emotional stress usually trigger their release. When secreted into the bloodstream, adrenaline and noradrenaline increase heart rate and blood pressure. Adrenaline often produces a sudden and remarkable burst of energy.

The outer layer of the adrenal gland produces hormones called corticosteroids. There are three types of corticosteroids.

  1. Sex Hormones.
    • Male androgens and female estrogens.
    • They affect sexual development and reproduction.
    • Sex hormones are also produced in larger amounts in the testicles and ovaries.
  2. Glucocorticoids
    • Hormones that aid in the conversion of starchy foods into glycogen.
    • An important glucocorticoid is cortisol. Cortisol helps regulate the immune system, helps maintain proper blood pressure and blood volume, and helps the body deal with physical stress.
  3. Mineralocorticoids
    • Control the body's content of the minerals sodium and potassium.


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