Diseases of Endocrine System

Endocrinology is the branch of medicine that, apart from dealing with the endocrine system hormones, the parts and their functioning, also studies endocrine disorders and strives to find appropriate remedies for them. Such disorders usually affect the glands associated with this system, which are pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, adrenal glands, pancreas, pineal gland, hypothalamus, and reproductive glands. Whenever there is witnessed an abnormality in the endocrine system, the production of hormones gets either retarded or profoundly excessive, thus affecting various vital activities in the body that are owed to the presence of these chemical compounds. The hormonal imbalance and the development of lesions in the endocrine system mark the onset of various endocrine disorders. Injury or infection to the glands as well as a genetic abnormalities lead to such a disease. The hormonal imbalance occurs when the feedback system has trouble in keeping the right level of hormones in the bloodstream. Among different types of disorders, diabetes is the most common in the United States of America, while some other include hypopituitarism, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s disease, adrenal insufficiency, precocious puberty, polycystic ovary syndrome, multiple endocrine neoplasia, gigantism & other growth hormone problems, and so on. Here follows a brief description of the major endocrine system disorders along with their symptoms and effective remedial strategies.

Hypopituitarism

It is marked by the underproduction of the hormones by the pituitary gland, which is located deep in the brain and is considered to be the most important gland in the body’s endocrine or hormonal system. The HGH or human growth hormone is one of the six hormones that are produced by the anterior portion of the pituitary gland. The deficiency of this hormone in children results in the impaired growth or dwarfism. Other prominent symptoms include weakness, nausea & vomiting, slow heartbeat rate, slowed or impaired thinking, extreme thirst, appearance of fine wrinkles next to the eyes and mouth, and so on. The early diagnosis and the administration of HGH can correct the condition, and result in the normal or near-normal height. A wide variety of symptoms are produced in case of deficiency in other hormones of the pituitary gland. If all the hormones of this most important gland are released in deficient amounts, the condition is termed as panhypopituitarism. As the pituitary gland hormones serve as stimulants for other glands to produce hormones, this kind of situation may have a snowball effect, thus resulting in deficiencies of sex, adrenal gland and thyroid hormones as well.

Hypothyroidism

This disorder of the endocrine system occurs when thyroid hormone is produced in deficient amounts by the thyroid gland. This insufficiency, in turn, results in the slowing down of all the metabolic processes in the body. An autoimmune disorder, such as Hashimoto’s disease, and inadequate production of the thyroid stimulating hormone are grouped among the causes of hypothyroidism. Usually developing over many years, the severity of the symptoms depends on the degree of thyroid deficiency. Some of the obvious symptoms include fatigue, intolerance to cold, constipation, unusual weight gain, hair loss, lack of interest in sex, goiter, weakness, deepened voice, impaired mental faculties, prolonged menstrual periods, and so on. The appearance of the full-blown symptoms leads to the condition termed as myxedema. The treatment is carried through the lifelong hormone replacement therapy with thyroid hormone or thyroxin. First of all, the lowest effective dose is determined which is then continued throughout one’s lifespan.

Hyperthyroidism

As the very name suggests, hyperthyroidism is caused by the excessive secretion of the thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland that is located in the neck region. This hormone is concerned with the regulation of body growth and the metabolic processes. Hyperthyroidism results from the autonomous overproduction of thyroid hormone by an enlarged gland that is suffering from the Grave’s disease. In less common cases, the exceedingly high secretion of the thyroid hormone may also result from the unwanted growth of a single nodule on the gland. Five times more frequent in women than in men, it usually affects the individuals at the age ranging from 30 to 40 years. Being associated with growth and metabolism, the excess amount of the hormone speeds up all the metabolic activity in the body, which also involves burning of the surplus amount of calories. The common symptoms include swelling in the neck, anxiety & stress, insomnia, increased heartbeat rate, restlessness, excessive sweating, rapid bowel movement, and weight loss despite increased appetite and more food consumption. In the majority of the cases, the hyperthyroidism is treatable but, if ignored, it may even prove to be fatal and claim the life of the victim. The preferred method of treatment is the administration of radioactive iodine and the patients may require medical supervision throughout their lives. Under certain circumstances, the surgical removal of the affected portion of the thyroid gland may also be recommended.

Diabetes Mellitus

Though diabetes insipidus and diabetes mellitus both are endocrine disorders, as each is marked by the hormonal deficiency, the latter is also known as a metabolic malfunctioning. Mellitus can further be distinguished into the Type 1 Diabetes and the Type 2 Diabetes, where the former is also termed as Juvenile Diabetes. Triggered by the hormonal deficiency, diabetes leads to an abnormal increase in the blood glucose level, a condition more commonly known as hyperglycemia. In Type 1, hyperglycemia is associated with an autoimmune disorder, in which the immune system mistakenly starts attacking the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Type 2 Diabetes, on the other hand, is mostly owed to genetic causes, thus being transferred from parents to the children. As insulin one of the two important pancreatic hormones, the other being glucagon is produced in the insufficient amounts, the amount of sugar starts increasing in the bloodstream, which is also excreted in the urine. Among the most common symptoms, there include excessive urination, increased thirst & appetite, blurred vision, unintentional weight loss, weakness, and lethargy. In the extremity of the situation, the patient may even to go coma. The natural cure for this troublesome disease is to take a controlled diet as well as go for a regular exercise. As there occurs excessive urination, the victims are usually advised to drink excessive amounts of water to maintain the overall fluid content of the body. The permanent cure, however, is to take injection of insulin on regular basis, which will enable the patients lead a normal or near-normal life. Here it is important to note that insulin injections and exercise should be timed appropriately in order to avoid the condition of hypoglycemia, in which the blood glucose levels are lowered below normal limits.

Goiter

A common manifestation of the Grave's disease and Hashimoto's thyroiditis, goiter is the enlargement of the butterfly-shaped thyroid gland located in the neck region of the body. The condition usually occurs due to the deficiency of iodine, and it has become rare in the United States of America after the advent and utility of the iodized salt. The swelling of the gland is usually painless, but sometimes it gets excessively enlarged and cause difficulty in breathing. Here it is noteworthy that this endocrine system disorder affects women four times more than it does men. The suggested treatment strategy involves the supplementation of the thyroid hormone in the body which eases burden on the gland, thus bringing a decrease in its size. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to remove a part or the entire swollen gland through surgery. The best way to avoid such an abnormality is to take iodized salt with your diet on regular basis.

Hypoparathyroidism

Often caused by the accidental removal of the parathyroid gland during the neck surgery, or intentional scrapping of the same gland while treating hyperparathyroidism. Individuals become unfortunate victims of the disease when the four pea-size glands, found around the thyroid glands in the neck region, show inability to produce and secrete sufficient amount of PTH (parathyroid hormone). The task of the PTH is to regulate the level of calcium in the blood. Ranging from paresthesia to tetany, the lack of PTH produces a variety of neurological and muscle abnormalities. Among the common symptoms, there include numbness & tingling, burning and prickling sensations in the face, hands, fingertips and other parts of the body. However, the patient may also encounter painful muscle spasms, dry & dull skin & hair, abnormal tooth development in children, psychosis and seizures. After the development of the disease, there is a need for the regular monitoring of the blood calcium levels. Meanwhile, the lifelong supplementation of calcium and large amount of vitamin D are recommended, while severe spasm and convulsions may require hospitalization. Sometimes, administration of the anticonvulsants and intravenous injections of calcium become necessary for the temporary but immediate relief of the symptoms.

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