The Endocrine System, along with the nervous system, is the communication system of the body. The chemicals (hormones) produced by the Endocrine glands are “signals” between body systems, essential for the body to grow, develop, respond to the outside environment, and maintain internal stability.
Endocrine conditions are medical conditions that occur when the endocrine system does not function correctly. The endocrine system is the system in the body which produces hormones to provide an internal communication system between cells located in distant parts of the body.
Endocrine conditions can be due to three main causes:
1) Underproduction of a certain hormone;
2) Overproduction of a certain hormone;
3) A malfunction in the production line of a hormone or in its ability to function correctly.
There are many factors which cause the endocrine system to stop working properly. Some endocrine conditions are due to a benign growth in the affected gland or when the cells in that gland stop functioning properly, while others are caused by genetic factors.
The Adrenal gland produces hormones that help our bodies handle stress and maintain salt and water balance, as well as sex hormones.
High levels of adrenal hormones (Cushing Syndrome) can result in weakness, weight gain, and high blood glucose.
Low levels of adrenal hormones (Addison’s Disease) can cause weight loss, weakness, salt and water loss, and possibly shock.
Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) is a genetic condition associated with early puberty and excess male hormones.
Young people who have frequent fractures, poor nutrition, are treated with steroids or other medications, don’t get enough exercise, calcium, or vitamin D, or who have thyroid, growth hormone, or sex hormone deficiency, may be at risk for having or developing bones with decreased mineral density or strength.
Diabetes Mellitus is a set of conditions in which the body cannot use glucose (sugar) properly. This can occur due to the pancreas islet cells’ inability to produce insulin (the hormone that controls glucose use), decreased sensitivity of the body to insulin, or both. Diabetes is separated into Type 1 (requiring insulin) and Type 2 (possibly treatable with other medications); many patients show features of both.
"Male" hormones (Androgens) and “Female” hormones (Estrogens) are produced by both sexes, but in different proportions. Thick or dark hair on the upper lip or chin, chest or belly, sometimes occurring with severe acne, thinning scalp hair, or deep voice in young women can be the sign of high levels of Androgens (male hormones) from the Ovaries or Adrenals, or normal levels of Androgen with very sensitive hair follicles. Treatments include female hormones and metformin.
High levels of cholesterol or other lipids (fats) in the blood can cause damage to the heart and blood vessels. High cholesterol can be due to diet, heredity, hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone), diabetes, medications, and other factors. It is usually treated with diet, exercise, and sometimes medication.
Some young women naturally start their periods earlier or later than others, and menstrual periods may not be "regular" for a year or so after starting. Fewer than 6 periods a year, unpredictable periods, or very heavy periods may be due to hormone imbalance in the ovaries and in the brain hormones (LH & FSH) that control them. The most common condition is Polycystic Ovary Disease (PCOS).
The Pituitary, a pea-sized "master gland", hangs by a tiny stalk from the base of the brain. It produces Growth Hormone (GH) as well as hormones that control the Adrenal gland (ACTH), the Thyroid (TSH), the Ovaries or Testes (LH & FSH) water balance (ADH), and milk production (prolactin). Genetic abnormalities, injury, toxins, or infections can cause GH deficiency and poor growth, or can keep other glands from working properly, causing fatigue, weight changes, stopping of menses, etc.
Most short teens do not have growth or thyroid hormone deficiencies; their size is due to heredity (short parents), a slower growth pattern (constitutional growth delay), nutrition, or serious illness. It is the job of the Endocrinologist to identify the cause of the short stature (hormonal or not) and recommend treatment if necessary.
The thyroid, a bowtie shaped gland in the neck, produces hormones (T4 and T3) that control many of the body’s metabolic processes.
Deficiency of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism) can lead to poor growth, delayed sexual development, dry skin, difficulty thinking, and constipation; this is usually treated with thyroid hormone pills.
Excess production of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) can over stimulate the heart and nervous system. The thyroid can also become enlarged (goiter), or develop nodules, most of which are not cancerous.
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