Composed of 9 chief glands, the endocrine system controls many of the body’s regulatory functions via hormones that act as chemical messengers. The endocrine system interacts with body organs and tissues, serving as a major contributor to overall health and wellness. Endocrine disorders are numerous and often affect multiple body systems due to abnormally high or low levels of specific hormones. Endocrine diseases are grouped according to the involved gland 1.
The thyroid hormones affect virtually every tissue in the body, controlling metabolic rate and aiding in the regulation of numerous other vital functions. Hypothyroidism describes inadequate production of these hormones, resulting in slow metabolism. Common symptoms include fatigue, feeling cold, weight gain, constipation and dry skin. The opposite situation occurs with hyperthyroidism. Overproduction of the thyroid hormones amps up body metabolism, causing symptoms such as:
- feeling overheated
- weight loss
- difficulty sleeping
Thyroid enlargement can occur with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
- The thyroid hormones affect virtually every tissue in the body, controlling metabolic rate and aiding in the regulation of numerous other vital functions.
- Overproduction of the thyroid hormones amps up body metabolism, causing symptoms such as: * feeling overheated
* weight loss
* difficulty sleeping Thyroid enlargement can occur with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism.
Pancreas and Parathyroid Disorders
Hormonal Imbalance in Children
Parathyroid hormones regulate blood calcium levels. If abnormally low, hypoparathyroidism results with low blood calcium. Possible signs and symptoms of this rare condition include muscle weakness, spasms, nervous system agitation and dense bones. Hyperparathyroidism involves high parathyroid hormone and calcium levels. Signs and symptoms might include:
- impaired memory
- poor concentration
- muscle aches
- abdominal pain
- digestive upset
- fragile bones
- Parathyroid hormones regulate blood calcium levels.
- If abnormally low, hypoparathyroidism results with low blood calcium.
Pituitary and Hypothalamus Disorders
Multiple hormones originate in the pituitary gland, and their release is controlled by the adjacent endocrine gland called the hypothalamus. Many of the hormones produced by the pituitary regulate the function of other endocrine glands, such as a thyroid, adrenals and the gonads. Some examples of pituitary hormones and associated diseases include: -- Antidiuretic hormone, or ADH, governs body fluid levels. Diabetes insipidus occurs when ADH production is impaired, causing increased urination and continual thirst. -- Growth hormone, or GH, controls healthy growth in children. Giantism and acromegaly occurs when too much GH is produced, resulting in bone overgrowth. In pituitary growth failure, GH levels are too low, leading to stunted and delayed growth. -- Thyroid stimulating hormone, or TSH, promotes thyroid hormone production. Reduced TSH from the pituitary leads to hypothyroidism, and abnormally high TSH causes hyperthyroidism, despite no malfunction in the thyroid gland itself.
- Multiple hormones originate in the pituitary gland, and their release is controlled by the adjacent endocrine gland called the hypothalamus.
- Reduced TSH from the pituitary leads to hypothyroidism, and abnormally high TSH causes hyperthyroidism, despite no malfunction in the thyroid gland itself.
Abnormal Estradiol Levels
The adrenals also produce androgens, sex hormones similar to testosterone. Overproduction leads to a condition called adrenal virilism. Signs and symptoms are usually more obvious in women and might include:
- increased body hair
- deepening of the voice
- hair loss
- increased muscularity
- menstrual irregularities
Men may experience infertility.
Pineal, Ovarian and Testicular Disorders
The pineal gland produces melatonin, the hormone responsible for daily rhythms and sleep. Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is associated with low melatonin production. Symptoms of this disorder, which results from decreased sunlight exposure during late autumn and winter, include depressed mood plus disturbed sleeping patterns and eating habits.
The testes in men and ovaries in women produce sex hormones essential for reproduction and, in females, pregnancy, childbirth and lactation. Too little sex hormone production from the ovaries or testes often indicates a problem with the pituitary and/or hypothalamus, as these glands regulate gonad function. Imbalanced sex hormone production can also occur with thyroid disorders and other diseases.
- The pineal gland produces melatonin, the hormone responsible for daily rhythms and sleep.
Hormonal Imbalance in Children
Abnormal Estradiol Levels
Acupuncture Points & the Pituitary Gland
Muscle Spasms With Thyroid Disorder
Diseases of Excessive Bone Growth
Low Estrogen Symptoms in Younger Women
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of a Swollen/Enlarged Thyroid Gland?
Tyrosine Deficiency Symptoms
Hormones That Regulate Blood Calcium Levels
What Does Low TSH Level Mean?
- The Internet Pathology Laboratory for Medical Education: Endocrine Pathology Index
- Fundamentals of Anatomy & Physiology; Frederic H. Martini, Ph.D.
- A&P Applications Manual; Frederic H. Martini, Ph.D., and Kathleen Welch, M.D.
- John Hopkins Medicine. Anatomy of the Endocrine System. Published 2019.
- Campbell M, Jialal I. Physiology, Endocrine Hormones. Published 2019.
- Lechan R, Toni R. Functional Anatomy of the Hypothalamus and Pituitary. Published 2016.
- Zdrojewicz Z, Pachura E, Pachura P. The Thymus: A Forgotten, But Very Important Organ. Advances in Clinical and Experimental Medicine. 2016;25(2):369-375. doi:10.17219/acem/58802
- The American Association of Endocrine Surgeons. Parathyroid function. Published 2019.
- National Cancer Institute. Introduction to the Endocrine System: SEER Training. Published 2018.
A registered nurse, former educator and endurance athlete, Stephanie Lewis earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing degree graduating magna cum laude from Nevada State College. Her first work published in 2005, Lewis is a contributor for LIVESTRONG.COM.