Pediatric – Adrenal Disorders

Pediatric Adrenal Disorders

Pediatric adrenal disorders are diseased or malfunctioning adrenal glands that are located at the top of the kidneys.  The adrenal glands produce hormones like cortisol and aldosterone that manage blood-sugar levels and regulate the balance of minerals in the body like sodium and potassium.  The adrenal glands also control the body’s response to stress by regulating adrenaline output, blood pressure and cardiovascular function.  Finally, adrenal glands are key to normal sexual maturity through puberty.

Types of Pediatric Adrenal Disorders

The disorders, if present at birth, are known as a congenital disorder but when it occurs after birth, it is known as an acquired disorder.   Adrenal disorders fall into two categories; adrenal glands that produce either too much or too little of the necessary hormones.

The most common adrenal disorders in children include the following:

  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) – A genetic disorder inhibiting the production of cortisol by the adrenal glands.
  • Addison’s disease – An adrenal insufficiency where the adrenal glands don’t produce enough of the hormone cortisol.
  • Cushing Syndrome – The overproduction of the hormone cortisol by the adrenal glands.
  • Adrenal Carcinomas – A cancerous tumor on the adrenal gland.
  • Adrenal Gland Tumors – Abnormal growths on the adrenal gland.
  • Hyperaldosteronism – The overproduction of the hormone aldosterone by the adrenal glands.
  • Pheochromocytoma – A tumor that develop on the inner part of the adrenal gland.

Common Symptoms

The symptoms of pediatric adrenal disorders will vary based on the type of disorder and the age of the child.   Common symptoms include:

Newborn/Infant

  • Dry skin and Lips
  • Feeding problems
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness/ Lethargy

Older Children 

  • Abnormal growth (stunted or accelerated growth)
  • Acne
  • Darkened skin color
  • Clouded thinking
  • Craving salt or salty foods
  • Depression & irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Decrease appetite
  • Early signs of puberty
  • Excess hair on face and body 
  • Excessive weight gain/loss
  • Fatigue, weakness, lethargy or Fainting
  • Low or high blood pressure
  • Muscle or joint pain
  • Stomach pain, nausea or vomiting
  • Very round face

Common Causes

There are several known causes of adrenal disorders including autoimmunity, which is a condition where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks itself.  Bleeding, infections or the spread of cancer to the adrenal glands can also cause adrenal disorders.   

Diagnosis and Treatment

When a child is experiencing these symptoms, blood and urine samples may be taken to look for and identify abnormal hormone levels.  If abnormal growths are suspected, CT Scans or MRIs are typically ordered to identify them.  

The treatments for pediatric adrenal disorders may include medication and/or surgery in the case of tumor related conditions.

Pediatric Endocrinology Specialist

If your child isn’t feeling well and experiencing these symptoms, call Dr. Joshua Smith for an appointment or fill out the form below.  Dr. Smith is the region’s only specialist in pediatric endocrinology and is specifically trained to treat adrenal disorders. 

Appointment Request Form – Dr. Smith

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