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  • Endocrine Disorders

  • Endocrine Disorders

    Endocrine Disorders

    Hormones are molecular messengers that regulate the activity of cells or organs at locations beyond the secreting gland. Hormones are important for maintaining body homeostasis, as well as stimulating development and growth. Consequently, severe effects can arise from the imbalances of hormone production or action.

    Endocrine Glands

    The major endocrine glands include the following: hypothalamus, anterior and posterior pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas, adrenal, ovary, and testis.

    There are also diffuse endocrine glands scattered throughout the body. The heart, kidneys, and digestive tract have also been noted to secrete hormones.

    Adrenal Hormone Disorders

    The adrenal glands are located superior to the kidneys. They are divided into cortical and medullary regions that can be differentiated histologically and through immunohistochemistry. The adrenal cortex is subdivided into three sub-regions: zona glomerulosa, which secretes aldosterone; zona fasciculata and zona reticularis, which secrete cortisol and androgens. The medullary region releases epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline).

    Among other functions, the adrenal hormones are implicated in nutrient metabolism, sodium reabsorption, blood pressure homeostasis, and sexual differentiation. Abnormal secretion or response levels of the hormones will cause problems in the aforementioned functions. Similarly, there may also be associated immunological, renal, and skeletal disorders.

    Pancreatic Endocrine Disorders

    The pancreas is a unique organ in that it secretes both endocrine and exocrine hormones that regulate nutrient metabolism. Diabetes, one of the leading killers and the most common chronic disorder among Americans today, is caused by a defect in the secretion or response of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreatic beta cells.

    Diabetes Mellitus

    Diabetes is a disease characterized by abnormally high levels of glucose in the blood. There are two variants of insulin-related diabetes. Type I diabetes, also called insulin-dependent diabetes, is caused by an insufficient production or secretion of the insulin hormone by the pancreas. In Type II diabetes, also called non-insulin-dependent diabetes, the pancreas can produce insulin, but the tissues cannot respond to the insulin and absorb glucose circulating in the blood. In both cases, blood glucose levels rise and remain high after eating. Abnormally high levels of glucose in the blood can cause a wide range of complications.

    Parathyroid Disorders

    The parathyroid glands are divided into four structures located behind the thyroid glands. They are responsible for secreting parathyroid hormone (PTH), which serves to increase blood calcium levels. The main sources of calcium are bone demineralization and intestinal absorption. Hypersecretion of PTH may result in bone loss and renal stones. Osteoporosis which is more commonly found in post-menopausal women has been linked to estrogen and its effects on PTH.

    Pineal Gland

    The pineal gland secretes melatonin, an amino-acid derivative, which has been associated with sleep. Secretion this substance is inversely related to exposure to light. That is, more melatonin is produced in a darkened environment. Melatonin supplements have been claimed by some drug manufacturers to reduce the negative effects of jet lag.

    Disorders Associated with Pituitary Hormones

    The pituitary gland is a small organ located underneath the hypothalamic region of the brain. Despite its small size, the pituitary gland stores and secretes a wide variety of hormones: follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), prolactin (PRL), growth hormone (GH), vasopressin, and oxytocin.

    These hormones have functions involved in reproduction, metabolism, lactation, blood pressure regulation, water balance, pregnancy, menstruation, and growth. The causes and effects of problems associated with pituitary hormones are equally diverse and complex

    Thyroid Disorders

    The thyroid gland is a bilobed organ situated anterior to the pharynx. This gland comprises two principal types of cells, which are responsible for secreting thyroid hormones and calcitonin.

    Thyroid hormones have functions in thermogenesis and nutrient metabolism. Disorders associated with the secretion or response of this hormone will generally affect basal metabolism and energy levels.

    Although calcitonin is responsible for decreasing blood calcium levels, a loss of calcitonin, as in a thyroidectomy, has not yet been implicated as a cause of any disease state.

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