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Endocrine diseases are generally caused by an imbalance in some part of the endocrine system, which consists of glands that are responsible for creating and regulating the hormones necessary for important bodily functions. Endocrine disease is usually caused by a surplus of a hormone, or a deficiency of one, but some disorders can actually create such imbalances. Endocrine glands are also susceptible to tumors, which are typically not associated with a hormonal imbalance.
Hypo-secretion is the term used to describe the under-production of a hormone that often leads to hormone-deficient endocrine diseases. Hyper-secretion the opposite. This term is used to describe the overproduction of a hormone in some part of the endocrine system.
Diagnosing endocrine diseases can be difficult because it usually involves measuring the amount of hormones in the blood stream. This is a difficult task. Since this is the case, the hormones are sometimes measured indirectly. An example is the measuring of blood glucose, instead of insulin, for diabetes.
Adrenal disorders are commonly caused by an imbalance of hormones from the adrenal glands. The human body has two of these glands, located close to the top of each kidney. These are responsible for making hormones associated with stress, like cortisol and adrenaline. Two endocrine diseases associated with the adrenal glands are Crushing’s Syndrome — in which too much cortisol is made — and Addison’s Disease — which results in too little cortisol.
Glucose disorders are also associated with the endocrine system. The gland involved in them is the pancreas. It is responsible for making glucagon and insulin. These two hormones are essential in regulating sugar in the body. Diseases that are caused by an imbalance of glucose are diabetes and hypoglycemia.
When people eat sugar, it is turned into glucose and then released into the blood stream. In order for cells to absorb the glucose, the body must have insulin. With no insulin, blood sugar levels can become dangerously high. This is what happens in diabetes. There are several different types of diabetes. Type 1 is present from birth and is characterized by the body’s inability to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs later in life, and is characterized by the inability of the body to use the insulin that is produced. The last type of diabetes is called gestational diabetes and is only found in pregnant women.
Hypoglycemia is the opposite of diabetes. Instead of blood sugar being too high, sufferers have blood sugar that is unusually low. This is caused by not having enough of glucagon, which is responsible for helping the body use stored glucose for energy.
Another group of endocrine diseases is caused by the thyroid gland. This is located in the neck, above the collar bone. It is responsible for establishing the body’s metabolism. The two most important hormones made by the thyroid gland are triidothyronine and thyroxine. Over- or under-production of one of these hormones causes disease. An overactive thyroid can cause symptoms like weight loss and increased heart rate, while an under-active gland can cause weight gain and fatigue.
The pituitary gland is yet another part of this body system that can be affected by endocrine diseases. About the size of a pea, it is located at the base of the brain, and connected by nerves to the hypothalamus. It is one of the most important glands of the endocrine system because the hormones it produces stimulate the other glands of the system to produce the hormones they make. For example, the pituitary gland makes follicle-stimulating hormone, which stimulates the ovaries and testes for reproduction.
The most common form of pituitary gland disease is a tumor. Such a growth is rarely cancerous. It can, however, lead to the hyper-secretion or hypo-secretion of many different hormones of the body that the pituitary gland stimulates. Pituitary tumors can also cause pressure to areas of the brain that can lead to headaches and difficulty seeing.
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