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What Is a Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone?

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  • Written By: Dulce Corazon
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 04 July 2014
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Hormones are made up of proteins, which act on other sites or organs of the body. They are usually produced by organs of the endocrine system, which functions in the maintenance of normal metabolism inside the body. A corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), previously known as corticotropin-releasing factor, is produced by the hypothalamus of the brain. This hormone then stimulates the front region of the pituitary gland, a pea-shaped gland situated just below the hypothalamus, to secrete another hormone called the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH).

In short, a corticotropin-releasing hormone is often needed for the production of ACTH. The hormone ACTH, in turn, goes to the adrenal glands, small glands situated on top of each kidney, to trigger the secretion of three other substances. These substances are the mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, and androgens.

The mineralocorticoids functions in the regulation of normal blood pressure. Glucocorticoids are responsible for converting protein and fat into glucose, which is the main source of food and energy of cells. Androgens work in the formation of male sex organs and in the development of secondary male characteristics such as deepening of the voice, growth of chest and facial hair, and increase in height.

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Any abnormality in the production and secretion of corticotropin-releasing hormone will affect the production of ACTH as well as the production of other substances it stimulates. If there is hyposecretion, or a reduction in the amount of corticotropin-releasing hormone being secreted, manifestations of symptoms are often seen. These include hypertension or increase in blood pressure, and weakness of the body due to the lack of glucose, which provides energy to the muscle cells. On the other hand, when hypersecretion or increased production of corticotropin-releasing hormone occurs, the affected individual usually presents with opposite symptoms such as low blood pressure and high glucose levels in the blood.

A damage to the hypothalamus caused by a traumatic brain injury, or a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) may greatly interfere with the normal production of corticotropin-releasing hormones. Injury to the pituitary gland can also affect the response of the gland to the stimulation of the corticotropin-releasing hormone. The development of tumors or mass lesions in any areas of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis can also result in the derangement of corticotropin-releasing hormone production and secretion.

Endocrinologists are doctors who treat patients with endocrine system disorders. Neurologists, doctors who specialize in disorders of the brain and nervous system, also manage these patients, especially when they present with other neurological symptoms. Removal of a tumor in the pituitary gland, also needs the expertise of neurosurgeons, doctors who perform surgical operations on the brain.

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