The endocrine system plays a great role in the development of several functions of the body – digestion, reproduction, and homeostasis. It is composed of several glands: hypothalamus, pituitary, parathyroid, and thyroid, adrenal and reproductive.
These glands produce secretions that work with the immune and nervous system to maintain the human body in good shape. The endocrine glands are the ones that generate the most important hormones in the body.
The hormones are released directly into the bloodstream, that carries them around the entire body. Endocrine disorders appear when these glands no longer function the way they should. Without hormones, some body processes have not regulated the way they should – fluid balance, weight, breathing, etc.
Some of the most common endocrine dysfunctions are diabetes, acromegaly, Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, hyper or hypothyroidism, prolactinoma and more. These conditions have symptoms that can easily be mistaken for other diseases. Endocrine diseases can vary in severity. The main treatment consists of using synthetic hormones to solve the imbalance.
Common endocrine disorders and their symptoms
The symptoms of endocrine disorders can be inexistent at times. This is why it is difficult to tell whether a person has a hormonal imbalance without further investigations. Symptoms can appear as mild aspects of a person’s everyday life that does not offer many clues about the existence of any disease.
The list below contains the most common endocrine disorders and how they manifest:
Diabetes is a common disease that has an endocrinological cause. It occurs when the glands no longer produce enough insulin to face the needs of the body or the body can’t assimilate insulin any longer.
Regardless of the type of diabetes, the symptoms are quite similar. The patient will start experiencing excessive thirst, constant fatigue, nausea, frequent urination, unexplainable oscillations in weight and more. Sight can also be affected by diabetes.
Acromegaly is a condition that affects the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is the one that produces growth hormones. When the gland doesn’t work properly any longer, the body will produce too much of these hormones, thus leading to an exaggerated development of the extremities (feet and hands).
The signs of this disease include abnormally developed parts of the body: lips, nose, hands, feet, facial bones and so on. People who suffer from acromegaly have a thick voice and experience joint pain and headaches.
This disease is characterized by a decreased cortisol level, as well as a lowered aldosterone production. The adrenal gland is the one which is affected when a person suffers from Addison’s disease.
The signs are very unspecific, meaning that they can be associated with many other affections and further tests are required to determine whether the disease is present or not. The common symptoms are diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, abnormal glycemia, loss of appetite, low blood pressure, nausea, the lack of menstrual cycles in women, vomiting and so on.
Cushing’s Syndrome occurs when cortisone is produced in access. The signs of this disease are quite evident. The neck becomes thicker, skin gets discolored, the patient experiences constant fatigue feels thirsty all the time, bones become more fragile and thinner, upper body weight-gain and more.
Persons who suffer from Cushing’s Syndrome may also have hyperglycemia and hypertension.
Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is an autoimmune condition in which the thyroid is attacked by the immune system, which influences the normal production of hormones. The result is low production of thyroid hormones that lead to various symptoms. In some cases, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is a quiet disease with no visible signs.
After it develops, the symptoms include intolerance to cold temperatures, constipation, hair loss, muscle and joint pain, slower heart rates and weight gain.
Prolactinoma affects the pituitary gland. Instead of producing healthy quantities of hormones, the gland produces it in excess. The main symptom is the unexplained presence of breast milk.
Prolactin is the hormone that leads to symptoms such as erectile dysfunction, infertility, lack of menstrual cycles and a decreased libido.
Risk factors and potential complications
There are several risk factors that can increase the possibility of developing an endocrine disease at one point in life. Endocrine imbalances are not caused by a disease all the time. They can also be caused by external factors or certain conditions that don’t have anything to do with the endocrine system. A few of these risk factors are:
- High cholesterol
- Endocrine disorders in the family
- Medical history of autoimmune diseases
- Inadequate diet
A basic endocrinological control includes a discussion with a physician, a general and local examination. If suspicions appear, further investigations are required. Whenever you notice symptoms that are abnormal, look for an endocrinologist in Queens and schedule an appointment. A few of them include:
- Thyroid ultrasound. It is a method of non-invasive investigation, which measures the size of the thyroid gland and evaluates whether there are any uncommon changes or nodules.
- TSH, T3 and T4 values indicate whether the thyroid functions or not
- FSH and LH have high values if there is a deficiency of sex hormones and a low level in the case of pituitary insufficiency, adrenal tumors
- The levels of estradiol and progesterone are also important in finding hormonal abnormalities
- The best method of checking the adrenal glands is to measure cortisol and DHEA
Some of the investigations have been mentioned above, but it should be noted that hormones are secreted from various other regions of the body (intestinal tract, nervous system, adipose tissue), which makes endocrinology a discipline which requires frequent communication with other branches of medicine (gastroenterology, neurology, diabetes, cardiology, surgical specialties, etc.).
There are situations where certain endocrine disorders can be diagnosed in the subclinical phase, and through early diagnosis, it can prevent the progression of the disease or the occurrence of complications. For example, in the case of thyroid disease, their frequency increases as they age and can cause a number of adverse effects on other body functions such as the cardiovascular system.
To learn more about endocrine diseases and treatment options, use the contact details listed below.
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