What to know about endocrine disorders
Endocrine disorders affect the endocrine system. There are various conditions that fall into this category, including diabetes and PCOS.
Endocrine disorders are medical conditions wherein the endocrine system, which produces hormones, does not function correctly.
Endocrine disorders have several potential causes, such as tumors, genetic factors, or hormonal imbalances. Because these conditions affect hormones, they can cause a wide range of symptoms and influence growth and development, metabolism, sexual function, and mood.
This article discusses the different types and causes of endocrine disorders. It also looks at treatment options and when to contact a doctor.
The endocrine system is a collection of glands and organs that regulate bodily processes using hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through the bloodstream to influence bodily processes.
- pineal body
- pituitary gland
- thyroid and parathyroid
- adrenal gland
These and other parts of the endocrine system regulate a range of processes, including metabolism, reproduction, and growth.
Endocrine disorders occur when one or more parts of the system do not work correctly. This typically causes high or low levels of certain hormones or results in the body not responding correctly to certain hormones. This can lead to problems around the body.
Endocrinology refers to the study of hormones, and an endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in hormones. These doctors can provide treatment options that can help restore the normal balance and function of the hormones in a person’s body.
Endocrine disorders have a range of different causes, depending on the condition.
For example, acromegaly and Cushing’s syndrome often result from a tumor in the adrenal or pituitary gland. These tumors are usually noncancerous but still require removal to manage the condition.
Some problems result from hormonal imbalances. For example, hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism relate to the amount of thyroid hormones the thyroid gland produces and whether it is overactive or underactive . Also, high androgen levels in females can cause polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
In some cases, an autoimmune condition causes endocrine problems. For example, type 1 diabetes is the result of the immune system destroying insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Graves’ disease is also an autoimmune condition, and it can result in hyperthyroidism.
There are many different types of endocrine disorders. Some examples include the following.
Diabetes is a condition that causes high blood glucose levels due to the body being unable to either produce or use insulin sufficiently to regulate glucose. Two of the most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2.
- increased thirst and urination
- increased hunger
- unexpected weight changes
- persistent sores
- numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- blurry vision
Most treatments for diabetes include a combination of lifestyle factors and medications. People with diabetes may require regular insulin medications to help regulate their glucose levels.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland produces too many hormones . The condition has several possible causes, including inflammation of the thyroid gland or Graves’ disease.
Thyroid hormones help regulate energy use throughout the body. This means that the condition can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:
- a rapid or irregular heartbeat
- difficulty sleeping
- irritability and nervousness
- poor temperature regulation
- frequent bowel movements
- weight loss with an increased appetite
- a goiter, which is a growth in the neck
Treatments for hyperthyroidism depend on its cause, the symptoms, and the person’s overall health. They could include medications, radioiodine therapy, or thyroid surgery.
Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid does not produce enough hormones. It is the most common thyroid disorder, and it can cause bodily processes to slow down.
- sensitivity to cold
- slow speech
- droopy eyelids and facial swelling
- dry skin
- a slow heartbeat
- muscle cramps
- weight gain
- tingling in the hands
A doctor may suggest treating the condition with additional doses of thyroid hormones to help manage the symptoms.
Cushing’s syndrome occurs when there is an excess of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol helps the body respond to stress, regulate metabolic processes, and maintain blood pressure.
Too much cortisol in people with Cushing’s syndrome can cause symptoms that include:
- weight gain
- thin arms and legs
- a rounded face
- a fatty lump between the shoulders
- excessive hair growth
- muscle weakness
- blurry vision
- decreased fertility and sex drive
- easy bruising and purple stretch marks
The most common treatment for Cushing’s syndrome is surgery to remove a tumor that is causing the problem.
Acromegaly occurs when the body makes too much growth hormone. It can result in the unusual growth of bones, organs, and other tissues around the body. For example, it can cause:
- swollen hands and feet
- the growth of facial features
- bone changes, such as a protruding jaw
- thick, dry skin
- sweating and body odor
- a deeper voice
Treatments could include surgery, medications, and radiation therapy to reduce the tumor causing the condition.
PCOS occurs when an imbalance of reproductive hormones may cause problems in the ovaries.
To treat PCOS, a doctor might suggest hormonal birth control pills, anti-androgen medications, or metformin.
Endocrine disorders cause a wide range of symptoms. Many of these symptoms overlap with those of other conditions. This can make endocrine disorders difficult to diagnose, and diagnosis may require a number of tools and tests.
For example, a doctor might diagnose an endocrine disorder using:
Endocrine disorders can be difficult to identify due to their wide range of symptoms and their similarity to other conditions. Anyone who is experiencing any unusual symptoms that could suggest an endocrine disorder should contact a doctor.
It is particularly important to seek medical help if the symptoms are worsening or disrupting daily life. Many endocrine disorders are treatable, but some require lifelong medication.
Endocrine disorders are a collection of conditions resulting from problems with a part of the endocrine system. This is a complex system that produces and distributes hormones throughout the body.
These disorders occur when the endocrine system produces too much or too little of a hormone or if the body does not respond in the correct way to the hormone.
Endocrine disorders can be challenging to identify due to the range of symptoms they cause and their similarity to other conditions. However, people who are experiencing symptoms should contact a doctor, as the conditions typically require treatment.
Last medically reviewed on October 25, 2021