The adrenal medulla is the inner part of the adrenal gland, which is located on top of each kidney. The adrenal medulla is part of the body’s endocrine system and is responsible for producing and releasing two important hormones, epinephrine (also called adrenaline) and norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline).
Epinephrine and norepinephrine are commonly known as the “fight or flight” hormones, because they are released in response to stress or danger and help the body prepare to respond to a perceived threat. These hormones cause a variety of physiological changes in the body, including increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate, as well as dilating the pupils of the eyes and diverting blood flow away from non-essential organs such as the digestive system.
The release of epinephrine and norepinephrine from the adrenal medulla is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, which is part of the body’s autonomic nervous system. When the sympathetic nervous system is activated, it triggers the release of these hormones from the adrenal medulla, allowing the body to quickly respond to a stressful situation.
Disorders of the adrenal medulla can lead to a variety of symptoms and medical conditions. For example, tumors of the adrenal medulla, known as pheochromocytomas, can cause excessive release of epinephrine and norepinephrine, leading to symptoms such as high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and sweating. Treatment of these tumors typically involves surgical removal.
In summary, the adrenal medulla plays an important role in the body’s response to stress and danger by producing and releasing the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine. Dysfunctions of the adrenal medulla can cause a variety of medical conditions, and treatment typically involves addressing the underlying cause.