What Is the Endocrine System?
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Endocrine System- Parts, Functions, and Associated Disorders

Published on Sep 28, 2022 and last reviewed on Jul 11, 2023   -  4 min read

Abstract

The endocrine system controls and regulates the body’s metabolism with the help of hormones. Read this article to know more about this system.

What Is the Endocrine System?

The endocrine system is the messenger system of the body. The system uses hormones released by endocrine glands into the bloodstream to regulate the functioning of all the organs. The endocrine system works as the body’s internal chemical signaling system. The endocrine system primarily comprises the following:

  • Glands: The endocrine glands are located throughout the body.

  • Hormones: These endocrine glands produce and secrete hormones into the bloodstream and sometimes into the fluid surrounding the cells (extracellular fluid).

  • Receptors: These are present in various body organs and tissues and respond to hormonal signals.

Why Are Hormones Important?

Hormones are signaling molecules that regulate the functioning of organs and tissues. They are essential because they work as the main component of the endocrine system that keeps the system going. Although produced in a minimal amount, hormones carry out some of the most vital functions in the body. Examples of such processes include:

Numerous receptors are present in the target organs, which bind with the hormones to function. Hormones are responsible for all the biological processes in the body from conception to childhood, through adulthood, and into old age.

What Are the Parts of the Endocrine System?

The endocrine system is a complex system that operates through feedback loops. A feedback loop is a chain of reactions where the output of a system is routed back as inputs to form a circle. Multiple glands bring about these reactions, known as endocrine glands. The following are the integral parts of the endocrine system:

  1. Hypothalamus.

  2. Pituitary gland.

  3. Pineal gland.

  4. Adrenal glands.

  5. Thyroid gland.

  6. Parathyroid glands.

  7. Thymus.

  8. Pancreas.

  9. Gonads.

What Are the Functions of the Endocrine System?

The numerous functions of the endocrine system are carried out through its glands. The various endocrine glands and their operation are mentioned below:

Functions of the Endocrine System

What Are the Disorders of the Endocrine System?

Sometimes these endocrine glands produce too much or too little of these hormones, and this imbalance in the hormone level leads to multiple problems in our body. However, there is an adequate amount of hormone produced by the glands in some cases, but our body fails to respond to them. Factors like stress, illness, or infection can also cause hormonal issues leading to endocrine disorders. Some of the most common endocrine diseases are:

  • Acromegaly: Overproduction of growth hormones by the pituitary leads to this condition. It is characterized by the increased size of the bones and abnormally increased height.

  • Cushing’s Syndrome: It occurs due to high cortisol levels in the body for a very long time. Patients of this condition show specific symptoms like moon face, buffalo hump, purple bruising in the skin, etc.

  • Hyperthyroidism: The thyroid gland produces an excess of thyroid hormones, leading to multiple systemic problems. Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include unusual weight loss, disturbed sleep cycles, increased heart rate, anxiety, osteoporosis, etc.

  • Hypothyroidism: Commonly known as low thyroid. Hypothyroidism occurs as a result of decreased hormone production by the thyroid gland. Symptoms of hypothyroidism include unusual weight gain, tiredness, lethargy, depression, hair thinning, pain in the joints, etc.

  • Adrenal Insufficiency: In this disorder, the adrenal gland does not produce hormones like cortisol that manage stress.

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: An imbalance of the female reproductive hormone leading to ovulation problems.

  • Precocious Puberty: Some kids hit puberty at an abnormally young age due to the dysfunction of the gonads.

  • Diabetes: Diabetes is a common endocrine disorder that leads to abnormal blood glucose levels. In this condition, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, the body does not utilize the insulin produced, and the insulin does not work.

How Common Are Endocrine System Disorders?

Diseases of the endocrine system are extremely prevalent, including diabetes mellitus, thyroid dysfunction, obesity, disorders of the female reproductive system, etc.

  • Diabetes Mellitus: This endocrine disorder is widespread; about ten percent of the total population is affected by it.

  • Thyroid Dysfunction: This is a prevalent condition; more women are affected by this than men.

  • Hypogonadism: This occurs when the body does not produce enough of the hormone that plays a vital role in growth and development during puberty in men. Most men over 45 years of age tend to have a low testosterone level.

  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome: It is a common condition leading to infertility in women; it affects about five to ten percent of the female population.

Conclusion:

The endocrine system is a powerful system of our body that regulates the proper functioning of various glands. This system functions through a feedback loop. Many problems may occur due to improper functioning of the endocrine glands. An imbalance in the hormone levels produced by these glands can cause various metabolic issues. Consulting an endocrinologist is highly recommended in case of any hormonal problems.

Last reviewed at:
11 Jul 2023  -  4 min read

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