There are two adrenal glands, each sitting on top of the kidneys. They produce a host of hormones, including cortisol, aldosterone, and the sex steroids estrogen and testosterone. Cortisol helps the body to respond to stress, while aldosterone controls the balance of electrolytes, including sodium and potassium in the body. The adrenal glands also produce catecholamines called epinephrine and norepinephrine. Together these hormones contribute to the “flight or fight” response to rigorous activity and stress. These glands are redundant organs, meaning that the removal of one gland does not interfere with normal production and function of hormones from the remaining gland.
Disorders of the adrenal glands are often the result of over production of the various hormones described above. Medications can sometimes control the excess hormone release, but most often surgery is the only cure.