What is Adrenal Adenoma?
Adrenal Adenoma is a pathological condition of the adrenal glands in which there is development of benign tumors in the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are located on the top of the kidneys. These tumors stem from the outer layer of the adrenal gland which is called as the adrenal cortex. The function of the adrenal cortex is to produce steroid hormones. Adrenal Adenomas cause overproduction of these steroid hormones. There are also certain Adrenal Adenomas that do not produce any steroid hormones and they are called as non-functioning Adrenal Adenomas.
Adrenal Adenoma very rarely produces symptoms and hence they are diagnosed incidentally when a radiologic study is being done for some unrelated condition. Adrenal Adenomas may be benign tumors but they need to paid careful attention to especially if they involved with overproduction of steroids in the body.
What are the Causes of Adrenal Adenoma?
There is no clear cut cause of Adrenal Adenomas but researchers are of the opinion that they are caused due to mutations of certain genes which are not well identified as of now. However, Adrenal Adenomas are seen more in people with certain inherited medical conditions like Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome. Adrenal Adenomas are also seen in people with certain genetic defects like congenital adrenal hyperplasia but in majority of cases of Adrenal Adenoma there is no genetic link.
The risk of developing Adrenal Adenoma increases with age meaning that as an individual grows older the risk of him or her developing Adrenal Adenoma increases by about 6%. Other than this, there is no clear cause for development of Adrenal Adenoma.
What are the Symptoms of Adrenal Adenoma?
As stated above, in majority of the cases Adrenal Adenoma remains asymptomatic unless the adenomas produce excessive amounts of steroid hormones which may result in development of other medical conditions. Citing an example, excessive production of aldosterone may result in development of Crohn Disease or excessive production of cortisol may result in development of Cushing Disease. In very rare cases, there may be pain in the flanks experienced due to Adrenal Adenomas.
How is Adrenal Adenoma Diagnosed?
As stated above, majority of cases of Adrenal Adenoma are diagnosed incidentally while a radiological study is being conducted for some unrelated condition. A CT or an MRI scan of the abdominal area will clearly show these abnormal growths or tumors. Once Adrenal Adenoma is suspected then the doctor may further investigate this with laboratory studies to check the levels of steroid in the body which will be significantly increased in cases of Adrenal Adenoma.
How is Adrenal Adenoma Treated?
The front line treatment for Adrenal Adenoma is surgery. The surgical procedure done for removal of Adrenal Adenoma is called as adrenalectomy. This procedure is a must for those Adrenal Adenomas which are involved with overproduction of steroid hormones. This is more so if the length of the tumor is more than 3 cm in diameter or if there is evidence of the tumor bleeding so as to exclude the risk of a cancer.
Adrenal Adenomas which are non-functioning meaning that they are not involved in any production of steroid hormones can be simply monitored with CT and MRI at regular intervals along with regular laboratory checks for levels of steroids in the body to check whether there is any changes in the character of the Adrenal Adenoma.
In some cases when an adrenalectomy is done, the spleen is also removed along with the adenomas as a preventive measure. In such cases, the patient undergoing splenectomy needs to be vaccinated against more potent and dangerous bacteria so as to prevent them from serious medical conditions like pneumonia or bacterial meningitis.
What is the Prognosis of Adrenal Adenoma?
The overall prognosis for Adrenal Adenoma is excellent with prompt treatment. Once the Adrenal Adenoma is removed the recurrence rate is rather low and hence after having surgery the patient can lead a normal healthy life after being treated for Adrenal Adenoma.