Endocrinology deals with the body’s endocrine system, which regulates hormones.
An endocrinologist is a physician specializing in the field of endocrinology.
An endocrinologist treats a wide range of conditions affecting the endocrine system, including diabetes mellitus, thyroid disorders, osteoporosis, growth hormone deficiency, infertility, cholesterol problems, hypertension (high blood pressure), obesity, and more.
A number of body functions are controlled by hormones released from the glands and organs of the endocrine system.
The hypothalamus, pineal body, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroids, adrenals, pancreas, testes, and ovaries are among these glands.
Each hormone in your body performs a specific function.
At any given time, there are up to 40 different hormones in your blood.
The hormone travels through the bloodstream until it reaches its specific location(s) to perform its function.
These destinations, called targets, can be located on other glands, organs or tissues in the body.
An incoming hormone tells a specific part of your body what to do, when to do it, and how long it should do it for.
Hormones are often referred to as the “messengers” because they help organs communicate.
The hypothalamus is located in the brain.
This organ coordinates the endocrine system and links it with the nervous system.
Various parts of the brain transmit signals to the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus then releases and inhibits hormones according to the signals.
After that, these hormones act on the pituitary gland, which then controls several other glands.
Hormones released by the hypothalamus play an important role in:
The pituitary gland is found at the base of the brain.
As it has a role in so many bodily functions, it is sometimes called the “master gland.”
Hormones produced by the pituitary gland travel throughout the body.
They either direct certain bodily processes or stimulate other glands to produce other hormones.
Hormones produced by the pituitary gland include:
After childbirth, this hormone stimulates breast milk production.
Prolactin levels can affect hormones that control the ovaries in women and the testes in men.
Prolactin can affect menstrual cycles, sexual functionality, and fertility.
In childhood, this hormone stimulates growth.
People of all ages also need it to maintain healthy muscles and bones.
Human growth hormone also affects how fat is distributed throughout the body.
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland when this hormone is present.
It assists in maintaining blood pressure and sugar levels.
The body produces high amounts of cortisol when under stress.
Cortisol is sometimes referred to as the “stress hormone.”
The thyroid gland produces hormones that are responsible for regulating metabolism, energy balance, growth, and nervous system activity.
In males, this hormone stimulates the production of testosterone and in females, it stimulates the release of eggs
Males produce sperm when this hormone is released.
In females, it also triggers the release of estrogen and causes the ovaries to develop eggs.
The hypothalamus produces this hormone, but the posterior pituitary gland stores and releases it.
Water balance in the body is regulated by it.
It also regulates the blood’s sodium levels.
ADH conserves water by reducing the amount of water a person loses in their urine.
During breastfeeding, this hormone causes milk to flow, and it can help labor progress.
It is also produced in the hypothalamus, but is stored and released by the posterior pituitary gland.
The parathyroid gland is a group of four small glands located behind the thyroid gland.
These glands produce parathyroid hormone (PTH).
In the kidneys, PTH promotes the creation of active vitamin D.
This helps maintain calcium and phosphorus levels in the body.
PTH is therefore crucial for bone health and development.
Many people don’t know much about the pancreas since they don’t see or feel it in their everyday lives.
A pancreas is a flattened, long gland that performs two functions: it controls blood sugar levels and is a vital part of the digestive system.
The pancreas is situated between the spine and stomach.
Another part is nestled in the curve of the duodenum (first part of the small intestine).
These are the two main hormones produced by the pancreas:
Insulin prevents blood sugar levels from getting too high by allowing fat, muscle, and liver cells to absorb glucose in the blood.
These cells can then use the glucose for energy.
Insulin can also affect fat or protein breakdown.
In order to prevent too low blood sugar levels, this hormone is produced.
The liver transforms stored blood sugar into a usable form before releasing it into the bloodstream.
In addition, glucagon prevents the liver from storing glucose, so more is left in the blood.
The thyroid is located in the front of the neck.
It is responsible for regulating a person’s metabolism.
The thyroid produces hormones that affect how the body uses energy, consumes oxygen, and produces heat.
Both kidneys contain adrenal glands. A number of hormones are produced by these glands, including:
These hormones can help the body maintain proper cardiovascular function, help a person respond well to stressful situations, promote the proper use of carbohydrates and fats, distribute stored fat, produce body odor and pubic hair and promote, a healthy gastrointestinal system
Pineal glands are found in the brain.
They produce the hormone melatonin.
Melatonin influences sleep rhythm by helping the body recognize when it’s time to sleep.
Females have ovaries.
Their location is in the lower left and right quadrants of the abdomen.
The ovaries produce eggs and hormones such as:
These hormones play a vital role in reproductive organ development, breast development, bone health, pregnancy and fertility.
These glands are found in the scrotum of males.
Testes produce the hormone testosterone.
As a person gets older, testosterone promotes the growth of the penis, as well as the growth of facial hair and body hair.
With age, testosterone also deepens the voice of a person.
It also helps:
Balance is essential to hormonal function.
Too much or too little of one hormone can affect the release of other hormones.
Some of your body’s systems will not function properly if there is a hormonal imbalance.
Body imbalances can often be corrected by the body itself.
Your body has mechanisms to keep track of and respond to any changes in hormone levels to restore balance and return them to normal.
Occasionally, however, this system goes wrong and there can be a problem that the body isn’t able to fix.
A primary care physician will refer you to an endocrinologist, who specializes in treating frequently complex (and often chronic) conditions, which can affect several different body systems.
The endocrinologist may ask about symptoms that seem unrelated or unneeded.
Hormone levels affect so many different systems in the body that even small changes in one gland can impact parts of the body far away from the gland itself.
They will also check the patient’s heart rate and blood pressure, as well as their skin, hair, teeth, and mouth.
A treatment plan will be suggested by the endocrinologist after diagnosis.
The plan will depend on what is causing the symptoms.
Incorrect hormone production by the endocrine system can result in a variety of conditions. The following are examples of some endocrine system disorders.
Diabetes occurs when the body cannot properly control the levels of sugar in the bloodstream. Different types of diabetes exist. Common symptoms of diabetes include:
Certain medications and dietary changes can help manage diabetes. Unmanaged diabetes can lead to a number of complications, including:
Cushing’s Syndrome is caused by an excessive production of the hormone cortisol by the endocrine system.
Cushing’s syndrome is characterized by the following symptoms:
Complications of Cushing’s syndrome include:
A person with adrenal insufficiency does not produce enough hormones from their adrenal glands.
Addison’s disease is a type of adrenal insufficiency.
Addison’s disease occurs when a person’s adrenal glands are damaged and do not make enough cortisol and sometimes aldosterone.
People with adrenal insufficiency may react differently to stress.
Additionally, it may alter the way a person’s body maintains other functions that may be important.
Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency include:
Adrenal insufficiency can be treated in such a way that a person can live a typical, active life.
Having an overactive thyroid means that the thyroid gland produces too many hormones.
Overactive thyroid is also known as hyperthyroidism.
A thyroid that produces too many hormones can lead to symptoms such as:
There are several possible causes of an overactive thyroid, including:
An individual can lead a normal life with the right treatment.
An overactive thyroid can, however, cause a number of complications without treatment.
The most common of these are heart disease and heart failure, strokes, and osteoporosis.
Other endocrine system disorders include:
The endocrine system consists of the female ovaries, male testes, pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands.
The major glands of the endocrine system include the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroids, adrenals, pineal body, and reproductive organs; they play a role in hormone production and digestion.
Hormonal imbalances are caused by thyroid problems, stress, and eating disorders.
Symptoms include irregular periods, low sex-drive, unexplained weight gain, and mood swings.
Diabetes is the most common endocrine disease in the United States.
Although your symptoms may take some time to ease up, most cases of Cushing’s syndrome can be cured.
Women are more likely to suffer from Cushing’s syndrome than men.
Most commonly, it affects people between the ages of 25 and 40.
Overuse of cortisol medication can cause Cushing’s syndrome, as seen in chronic asthma or rheumatoid arthritis treatment (iatrogenic Cushing’s syndrome), or excessive production of cortisol due to tumors in the adrenal gland or elsewhere in the body (ectopic Cushing’s syndrome) or tumors of the pituitary gland.