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What Are the Different Types of Metabolic Disorders?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: S. Pike
  • Last Modified Date: 29 September 2014
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Metabolic disorders involve abnormal chemical reactions in a person’s body that disrupt the normal process of metabolism, the method of converting food into energy. Many metabolic disorders are genetic and may lead to enzymes malfunction. Conditions may be characterized by high blood pressure, blood clotting, and difficulty with insulin production. In many instances, a person with a metabolic condition may be overweight or obese. Common metabolic disorders include diabetes, Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease, and Grave’s disease.

Affecting more than 23 million Americans, diabetes is a disorder that occurs when a person's body struggles to create enough or properly use insulin. A hormone made in the pancreas, insulin is required for cells to receive glucose, a form of fuel used by the body. Diabetes causes high levels of glucose in the blood, fuel that does not reach the cells because of the absence of insulin, or the ability to use the insulin, depending on the type of diabetes. A diabetic may experience blurred vision, high blood pressure, and rapid weight loss. Typically a person with diabetes will be treated by watching his blood sugar levels and the use of insulin injections.

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Cushing's syndrome one of several metabolic disorders that affect a person's hormones. This condition produces an overabundance of cortisol, a hormone that helps control blood pressure and metabolism. If the body creates too much cortisol, a person may experience weight gain, fatigue, irritability, and acne. This condition may even lead to death if untreated. Cushing's syndrome may be caused by tumors, and treatment typically requires surgical removal of the tumors.

A rare disease affecting one of every 10,000 individuals, Addison's disease disrupts the adrenal glands, which are found near the kidneys. A person suffering from Addison's disease does not have enough of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone, which help control the levels of salt and water in the body. When levels of aldosterone get too low, the kidneys are unable to keep the amount of salt and water in balance, and blood pressure plummets. Besides low blood pressure, a person with Addison's disease may experience diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, and changes in skin color. An individual with this metabolic disorder can live a normal life with hormone replacements and increased dietary salt.

Grave’s disease, sometimes referred to as toxic diffuse goiter, is a metabolic disorder that affects the thyroid. A person with Grave's disease has an overactive thyroid, a gland found in the neck. This metabolic disorder causes the creation of too much of the thyroid hormone, which controls metabolism, breathing, and the heart and nervous system. A person with Grave’s disease often experiences heart palpitations, weight loss, and eye trouble. Treatment for Grave's disease may include the use of medication to curb overproduction of the thyroid hormone, or removal of the thyroid gland.

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