The adrenal glands, which are located right above the kidneys, produce hormones critical to your health and well-being. Adrenal gland hormones help you:

  • Keep blood sugar, salt and water at the right levels in your body
  • Sustain your pregnancy
  • Mature sexually
  • Respond to stressful situations

Adrenal disorders cause you to produce either too much or not enough adrenal hormones. Once the hormone(s) causing the condition have been identified, our endocrinologists work with other physicians in the MedStar Health system to create an individualized treatment plan that will be most effective for you. 

Some of the adrenal disorders we treat include:

  • Adrenal insufficiency (Addison's disease, secondary adrenal insufficiency)
  • Cushing's syndrome
  • Adrenal tumors
  • Hirsutism
  • Virilization

Adrenal insufficiency

Keeping your hormone levels in balance is always our goal. We often recommend you take medication that contains replacement hormones. You will likely need to take this medication throughout your life.

Cushing's syndrome

Our general approach to Cushing's syndrome and disease is surgery to remove the tumor whether it is in the pituitary or adrenal gland. You will likely need to take medication that contains replacement hormones following the surgery; depending on the individual case the replacement hormones may be temporary or permanenet If surgery is not possible, we can also recommend a variety of medications to inhibit the release of cortisol.


Hirsutism occurs when a woman over-produces male hormones and grows hair on her body. While the condition itself is not usually dangerous, it can be embarrassing. It can also indicate another underlying problem.

Possible underlying causes of hirsutism include:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Tumor in the adrenal gland or ovary
  • Cushing's syndrome or disease
  • Abnormal production of proteins male hormones in the adrenal glands
  • Abnormal production of male hormones in the ovaries

Taking certain medications can also cause hirsutism.

To treat the symptoms of hirsutism, we can prescribe medication, including:

  • Birth control pills
  • Anti-androgen (anti-male hormone) medications

To treat the underlying causes of hirsutism, we may also recommend:

  • Weight loss
  • Medications


Virilization occurs when the adrenal glands (or ovaries) over-produce male hormones, causing women to develop male characteristics, including:

  • Hair on the face and body
  • Baldness
  • Low voice
  • Bigger muscles
  • Increased interest in sex

Often, a hormone-producing tumor in the adrenal gland or ovaries causes the imbalance. Other causes may include:

  • A hormone-producing tumor located outside of the adrenal glands
  • Cysts in the ovaries

We treat virilization depending on its underlying cause. For ovarian cysts, we recommend either medication or, if the symptoms are mild enough, no treatment at all.

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