There are two glands in the human body: The endocrine gland and the exocrine gland. Endocrine glands release hormones in the body without the use of ducts whereas exocrine glands release hormones in the body with the use of ducts. One type of endocrine gland is the adrenal gland. It is a bean shaped gland located above the kidneys. It is triangular in shape and weights about 10 grams. The adrenal gland is divided into two: the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla. What does the adrenal gland do?
Generally, the adrenal gland releases hormones that maintain the homeostasis of the body. Released hormones depend on the part of the adrenal gland. The adrenal cortex releases three steroid hormones namely mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoides, and sex hormones while the adrenal medulla releases epinephrine and nor epinephrine.
The cotex has three layers namely: zona glomerulosa (outer layer), zona fasciculate, and zona reticularis. The mineralocorticoid (aldosterone) released by the adrenal cortex helps in regulating the salt content of the blood, particularly the potassium and sodium ion in the blood. When this hormone is released, potassium is excreted through urine and sodium is retained in the body. When there is sodium, water follows thus increasing the blood volume in the body. This hormone component of the adrenal cortex helps those with decreased blood volume or blood pressure brought about by severe hemorrhage.
The glucocorticoid component of adrenal cortex releases cortisone and cortisol. They promote normal cell metabolism and helps the body deal with stress by simply increasing the sugar level. This hormone helps decrease edema during inflammation and also reduces the pain by simply inhibiting the prostaglandins.
Sex hormones are also being released in the adrenal cortex. They help in forming male and female characteristics which sets a boundary between two sexes. Sex hormones are released throughout life in small amounts.
The adrenal medulla, as what is stated above, releases two hormones: epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones are collectively known as catecholamines. These hormones help the person deal a stressful situation by simply regulating the “fight-or-flight” response. When catecholamines are released, heart rate increases, blood pressure increases, glucose level increases, increased vision, increased metabolism, and small passage way in the lungs dilate to provide more oxygenation. This event results to more oxygen, sugar, and faster blood circulation the body particularly in brain, muscles, and heart. With such, the body is armored to face the short term stressful situation at hand.
These are the parts of the adrenal gland and the hormones released by them. It should be noted that any disruption in the function of the adrenal gland could alter the body’s function and appearance thus any medical problems regarding the said gland should be addressed as soon as possible.