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Endocrine Disorders

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The endocrine system is a complex of glands that secrete hormones. These hormones are very essential for growth as well as metabolism. Endocrine diseases commonly occur and lead to many health complications to the affected person. The following article will cover some of the most common endocrine disorders that show a slight change in hormonal level can lead to a health problem.

What are Endocrine Disorders?

The medical condition where a hormonal imbalance occurs is called as an endocrine disorder. The imbalance occurs when  there is too much or too less of a specific hormone in the body. This is referred to as hyperfunction or hypofunction. There are many glands in the endocrine system that can suffer from hyperfunction or hypofunction. These glands of the endocrine system include:

  • Hypothalamus: This is the lower middle part of the brain. It is a very important region of the brain that releases hormones that in turn direct the pituitary gland to secrete specific hormones in required quantity.
  • Pituitary gland: The gland present at the base of the brain is one of the most important glands as it secretes hormones that influence many other glands. Any changes in the pituitary gland can lead to problems such as menstrual changes in women.
  • Pineal gland: Another gland present near the brain center secretes hormones or chemicals that trigger a sleep pattern.
  • Adrenal glands: These are two cone-shaped glands that are present on the kidneys. These glands secrete the hormone cortisol.
  • Thyroid gland: The butterfly-shaped gland present in the throat that controls body temperature, metabolism, growth, puberty, etc. can be affected by a variety of disorders leading to many health complications.
  • Parathyroid: These are four tiny glands present in the neck that secrete hormones for bone development.
  • Thymus: The gland present in the upper chest region helps the body build a strong immune system in the early stages of life.
  • Pancreas: The islet cells of the pancreas are very important as they release insulin that helps control the blood sugar level. Any changes in insulin secretion can lead to diabetes mellitus.
  • Ovaries: The ovaries are an important part of the female reproductive system that release sex hormones.
  • Testes: The testes are an important part of the male reproductive system that produces male sex hormones.

Causes of Endocrine Disorders

Endocrine disorders can result due to hypofunction or hyperfunction of the glands. Thus, resulting in endocrine disorders. The increase or decrease in hormonal secretion disturbs the delicate balance of chemical responses, resulting in endocrine disorders. There are a number of factors that can lead to this hyper or hyposecretion. These factors include:

  • A problem with the endocrine system receiving responses
  • An underlying disease affecting the glands
  • Problems with the hypothalamus that fails to stimulate the pituitary gland to secrete hormone that in turn activates other glands to release hormones
  • Genetic mutations that can lead to problems with hormone secretion or leads to multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN), etc.
  • Infection
  • Injury to the endocrine gland
  • Tumor on a gland of the endocrine system
  • Lesion on the gland of the endocrine system

Types of Endocrine Disorders

There are many types of endocrine disorders related to each of the glands. These endocrine disorders are listed below, grouped according to the gland affected.

Disorders of the Adrenal Gland

The adrenal gland secretes two main groups of corticosteroid hormones. These include the glucocorticoids and mineralcorticods. The glucocorticoids include hydrocortisone and corticosterone. Mineralcorticoid includes aldosterone. Adrenal gland also secrets some amount of male and female sex hormones. The conditions that affect adrenal gland include:

  • Addison’s disease
  • Adrenal cancer
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia

Disorders of the Hypothalamus

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The hypothalamus helps maintaining the body’s internal balance, it is the link between the endocrine system and the nervous system and it produces hormones that release and inhibit other glands in secreting their hormones. There are many other functions of the hypothalamus. The hormones secreted by the hypothalamus include:

  • Anti-diuretic hormone (ADH)
  • Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (gnRH)
  • Growth hormone-inhibiting hormone (GHIH)
  • Oxytocin
  • Prolactin-releasing hormone (PRH)
  • Thyrotropin releasing hormone (TRH)

Disorders of the Parathyroid Gland

Parathyroid gland releases parathyroid hormone (PTH). The disorders associated with parathyroid gland include:

  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Hypoparathyroidism
  • Osteoporosis

Disorders of the Thyroid Gland

Thyroid gland produces T3 (triidothyronine) and T4 (thyroine)as well as some amount of calcitonin. The diseases of the thyroid gland include:

  • Goiters
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Thyroid nodules
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Thryroiditis

Disorders of the Ovaries

The ovaries secrete estrogen and progesterone. The disorder of the ovaries includes:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

Disorders of the Testes

The testes secrete testosterone, the male hormone. The conditions affecting the hormone secretion of the testes include:

  • Primary hypogonadism
  • Secondary hypogonadism

Diagnosis of Endocrine Disorder

Diagnosis of endocrine diseases and disorders is made by blood tests and urine tests that helps the doctors learn the level of hormones in the body. Other tests include UCG tests, CT scan, MRI, etc. to locate nodules or tumors on the glands.

Treatment for Endocrine Disorders

The treatment of endocrine disorders includesHormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Medications, injections, etc. help maintain the balance of the hormones. In some cases, surgical intervention may be needed for treatment of endocrine disorders. These conditions include certain type of cancers.

This was a little about endocrine disorders. Any changes in the hormone levels lead to physical symptoms. If you feel lethargic, weak, unexplained weight loss or gain, acne, menstrual problems, fertility issues, etc. speak to your doctor. You may be suffering from a hormonal imbalance that requires medical attention.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 01, 2015

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