Endocrine disorder impacts on human health

Main function of the endocrine system is to integrate body systems, along with the nervous system. The endocrine system is a complexset of glands that produce and release hormones which assist in controllingnumerous important body functions, including the body's ability to change calories into energy that powers cells and organs. Each gland of the endocrine system releases specific hormones into bloodstream. These hormones travel through blood to other cells and help control or coordinate many body processes.

The endocrine system influences how person's heart beats, bones and tissues grow. It plays a vital role in development and maintenance of human body parts. If it is affected or there is any disturbance in endocrine system, it leads to many diseases like diabetes, thyroid disease, growth disorders, sexual dysfunction, and a host of other hormone-related disorders.

Types of Endocrine glands:

The endocrine system comprises several glands.

Adrenal glands: Two glands that sit on top of the kidneys that release the hormone cortisol.

Hypothalamus: It is a part of the lower middle brain that tells the pituitary gland when to release hormones.

Ovaries: The female reproductive organs that release eggs and produce sex hormones.

Islet cells in the pancreas: Cells in the pancreas control the release of the hormones insulin and glucagon.

Parathyroid: Four tiny glands in the neck that play a role in bone development.

Pineal gland: A gland found near the center of the brain that may be linked to sleep patterns.

Pituitary gland: A gland found at the base of brain behind the sinuses. It is often known as the "master gland" because it influences many other glands, particularly the thyroid. If there is problems in the pituitary gland, it can affect bone growth, a woman's menstrual cycles, and the release of breast milk.

Testes: The male reproductive glands that produce sperm and sex hormones.

Thymus: A gland in the upper chest that helps develop the body's immune system early in life.

Thyroid: It is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck that controls metabolism.

Endocrine disorders are grouped into two categories:

  1. Endocrine disease occurs when a gland produces excessive or too little of an endocrine hormone, called a hormone imbalance.
  2. Endocrine disease due to the development of lesions (such as nodules or tumors) in the endocrine system, which may or may not affect hormone levels.

The endocrine's feedback system helps control the balance of hormones in the bloodstream. If human body has too much or too little of any type of hormone, the feedback system signals the proper gland or glands to correct the problem. A hormone imbalance may occur if this feedback system has trouble keeping the right level of hormones in the bloodstream, or if body doesnot clear them out of the bloodstream properly.

Causes of Endocrine Disorders:

Increased or decreased levels of endocrine hormone may be caused by:

  1. A problem with the endocrine feedback system Failure of a gland to stimulate another gland to release hormones (for example, a problem with the hypothalamus can disrupt hormone production in the pituitary gland)
  2. A genetic disorder, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) or congenital hypothyroidism
  3. Infection: Injury to an endocrine gland
  4. Tumor of an endocrine gland: Most endocrine tumors and nodules (lumps) are noncancerous. They generally do not spread to other parts of the body. However, a tumor or nodule on the gland may interfere with the gland's hormone production.

Types of Endocrine disorders: There are several disorder associated with dysfunctioning of endocrine system:

  1. Adrenal insufficiency. The adrenal gland releases too little of the hormone cortisol and sometimes, aldosterone. Symptoms of this are fatigue, stomach upset, dehydration, and skin changes. Addison's disease is a type of adrenal insufficiency.
  2. Cushing's disease. When there is overproduction of a pituitary gland hormone, it leads to an overactive adrenal gland. A similar condition called Cushing's syndrome may occur in people, particularly children, who take high doses of corticosteroid medications.
  3. Gigantism and other growth hormone problems. If the pituitary gland produces excessive growth hormone, a child's bones and body parts may grow abnormally fast. If growth hormone levels are too low, a child can stop growing in height.
  4. Hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland releases too much thyroid hormone, it can result in weight loss, fast heart rate, sweating, and nervousness. The most common cause for an overactive thyroid is an autoimmune disorder called Grave's disease.
  5. Hypothyroidism. If thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, it leads to fatigue, constipation, dry skin, and depression. The underactive gland can cause slowed development in children. Some types of hypothyroidism are present at birth.
  6. Hypopituitarism. The pituitary gland releases little or no hormones. It may be caused by a number of different diseases. Women with this condition may stop getting their periods.
  7. Multiple endocrine neoplasia I and II (MEN I and MEN II). These uncommon, genetic conditions which are transmitted down through families. They cause tumors of the parathyroid, adrenal, and thyroid glands, leading to overproduction of hormones.
  8. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Overproduction of androgens affect with the development of eggs and their release from the female ovaries. Polycystic ovary syndrome is major of infertility.
  9. Diabetes is the most common endocrine disorder identifiedby medical practitioners.

Symptoms of endocrine disorders:

The symptoms of endocrine disorders can be from mild or even nonexistent to serious and affecting whole human body and their emotional well-being. Specific symptoms depend on the specific part of the endocrine system affected.

  1. If there is a condition of diabetes, it is the most common endocrine disorder and occurs when the pancreas either does not produce sufficient insulin or the body cannot use the available insulin. Symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:
    1. Excessive thirst or hunger
    2. Fatigue
    3. Frequent urination
    4. Nausea and vomiting
    5. Unexplained weight loss or gain
    6. Vision changes
  2. Acromegaly: Acromegaly is a disorder in which the pituitary gland overproduces growth hormone. This leads to symptoms of overgrowth, especially of the hands and feet. Symptoms of acromegaly are as under:
    1. Abnormally large lips, nose or tongue
    2. Abnormally large or swollen hands or feet
    3. Altered facial bone structure
    4. Body and joint aches
    5. Deep voice
    6. Fatigue and weakness
    7. Headaches
    8. Overgrowth of bone and cartilage and thickening of the skin
    9. Sexual dysfunction, including decreased libido
    10. Sleep apnea
    11. Vision impairment
  3. Addison's disease: Addison's disease occurs due to decreased production of cortisol and aldosterone due to adrenal gland damage. General symptoms of Addison's disease include:
    1. Depression
    2. Diarrhea
    3. Fatigue
    4. Headache
    5. Hyperpigmentation of the skin (bronze appearance)
    6. Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose)
    7. Loss of appetite
    8. Low blood pressure (hypotension)
    9. Missed menstrual periods
    10. Nausea, with or without vomiting
    11. Salt cravings
    12. Unexplained weight loss
    13. Weakness (loss of strength)
  4. Cushing's syndrome: Cushing's syndrome happen due to excess cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands. Symptoms of Cushing's syndrome include:
    1. Buffalo hump (fat between the shoulder blades)
    2. Skin discoloration such as bruising
    3. Fatigue
    4. Feeling very thirsty
    5. Thinning and weakening of the bones (osteoporosis)
    6. Frequent urination
    7. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
    8. High blood pressure (hypertension)
    9. Irritability and mood changes
    10. Obesity of the upper body
    11. Rounded “moon“ face
    12. Weakness (loss of strength)
  5. Graves' disease: Graves' disease is a kind of hyperthyroidism that results in excessive thyroid hormone production. Generalsymptoms of Graves' disease include:
    1. Bulging eyes (Graves' ophthalmopathy)
    2. Diarrhea
    3. Difficulty sleeping
    4. Fatigue and weakness
    5. Goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland)
    6. Heat intolerance
    7. Irregular heart rate
    8. Irritability and mood changes
    9. Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
    10. Thick or red skin on the shins
    11. Tremors
    12. Unexplained weight loss
  6. Hashimoto's thyroiditis: Hashimoto's thyroiditis, or autoimmune thyroiditis, is a medical disorder in which the thyroid is targeted by the immune system, which results in hypothyroidism and low production of thyroid hormone. In Hashimoto's thyroiditis, usually patients do not exhibit symptom, but symptoms can include:
    1. Cold intolerance
    2. Constipation
    3. Dry hair and loss of hair
    4. Fatigue
    5. Goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland)
    6. Joint and muscle pain
    7. Missed menstrual periods
    8. Slowed heart rate
    9. Weight gain
  7. Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism is a condition that occurs due to overactive thyroid gland. Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:
    1. Diarrhea
    2. Difficulty sleeping
    3. Fatigue
    4. Goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland)
    5. Heat intolerance
    6. Irritability and mood changes
    7. Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
    8. Tremors
    9. Unexplained weight loss
    10. Weakness (loss of strength)
  8. Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid is underactive and produces low amount of thyroid hormone. Often, hypothyroidism does not show any symptom. But some symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
    1. Cold intolerance
    2. Constipation
    3. Decreased sweat production
    4. Dry hair
    5. Fatigue
    6. Goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland)
    7. Joint and muscle pain
    8. Missed menstrual periods
    9. Slowed heart rate
    10. Swollen face
    11. Unexplained weight gain
  9. Prolactinoma: Prolactinomaoccurs when a dysfunctional pituitary gland makes excess prolactin hormone, which functions in the production of breast milk. Excess prolactin has following symptoms:
    1. Erectile dysfunction
    2. Infertility
    3. Loss of libido
    4. Missed menstrual periods
    5. Unexplained milk production
  10. In some cases, endocrine disorders can be life threatening. It is better to get medical attention if patients exhibit serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition including such as:
    1. Confusion or loss of consciousness for even a brief moment
    2. Dangerously low blood pressure (extreme hypotension)
    3. Dangerously slow heart rate
    4. Dehydration
    5. Depression or anxiety
    6. Difficulty breathing
    7. Eye problems, including dryness, irritation, pressure, pain or bulging
    8. Severe fatigue or weakness
    9. Severe, unexplained headache
    10. Severe vomiting and diarrhea
    11. Sleep disturbances
  11. Risk factors for endocrine disorders:
    There are numerous factors that increase the risk to develop endocrine disorders. Risk factors for endocrine disorders are as under:
    1. Elevated cholesterol levels
    2. Family history of endocrine disorder
    3. Inactivity
    4. Personal history of autoimmune disorders, such as diabetes
    5. Poor diet
    6. Pregnancy (in cases such as hyperthyroidism)
    7. Recent surgery, trauma, infection, or serious injury

Testing for Endocrine Disorders:

If person is suffering from an endocrine disorder, He/she is referred to endocrinologist. An endocrinologist is specially trained in problems with the endocrine system.The symptoms of an endocrine disorder differextensively and depend on the specific gland involved. However, most people with endocrine disease complain of fatigue and weakness. Initially, doctor recommendsblood and urine tests to check patient's hormone levels. These tests help doctors to determine if patients have an endocrine disorder. Imaging tests may be done to help locate or identify a nodule or tumor.

Treatment: Treatment of endocrine disorders can be difficult, as a change in one hormone level can throw off another. Modern treatment is generally quite effective for endocrine disorders, and severe consequences of endocrine dysfunction are infrequent. Nevertheless, untreated endocrine disorders can have extensive complications throughout the body.

Possible complications of endocrine disorders:

It is established in medical journals that most endocrine disorders are mild and slow to progress, but certain endocrine disorders can lead to complications over time as unbalanced hormonal signalling affects normal body processes. In cases of Addison's disease and hypothyroidism in particular, severe attacks or crises can have serious problems.

Diabetes can also have life-threatening complications. Complications of untreated or poorly controlled endocrine disorders can be serious, even life threatening in some cases.

Therefore patients must consult doctor to minimize risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan.

  1. Main complications of certain endocrine disorders include:
  2. Anxiety or insomnia (in many thyroid conditions)
  3. Coma (in hypothyroidism)
  4. Depression (in many thyroid conditions)
  5. Heart disease
  6. Nerve damage
  7. Organ damage or failure
  8. Poor quality of life

It can be established that endocrine disorders are medical conditionassociated with the endocrine glands of the body. The endocrine system produces hormones, which are chemical signals sent out, or secreted, through the bloodstream. Hormones help the body to control processes, such as appetite, breathing, growth, fluid balance, feminization and virilization, and weight control.

Main endocrine disorders consists of diabetes mellitus, acromegaly (overproduction of growth hormone), Addison's disease (decreased production of hormones by the adrenal glands), Cushing's syndrome (high cortisol levels for extended periods of time), Graves' disease (type of hyperthyroidism resulting in excessive thyroid hormone production), Hashimoto's thyroiditis (autoimmune disease resulting in hypothyroidism and low production of thyroid hormone), hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), and prolactinoma (overproduction of prolactin by the pituitary gland).

These disorders have numerous symptoms and affect several parts of the body and have mild to serious complications. Treatments depend on the specific disorder but doctors try to adjust hormone balance using synthetic hormones.

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