The endocrine system consists of multiple organs and hormones, with scientists continuing to investigate the purpose of each hormone and organ.
The adrenal glands, hypothalamus, ovaries, pancreas, parathyroid, pineal gland, pituitary gland, testes, thymus and thyroid, are all part of the endocrine system.
The glands in the endocrine system make chemicals called hormones, which travel around the body in the bloodstream.
These hormones interact and communicate with the body by travelling to the targeted cell to affect changes within the cell.
The endocrine system works with the immune and nervous systems to assist the body in coping with different stresses.
The endocrine system assists with growth, repair, sexual reproduction, digestion and homeostasis.
According to the experts at House Call Doctor, endocrine diseases occur when there is too much or too little of a hormone, resulting in a hormone imbalance.
Common endocrine diseases
Adrenal insufficiency: adrenal insufficiency (otherwise known as Addison’s disease) occurs when the adrenal gland does not release enough cortisol or aldosterone.
Symptoms of this disease typically develop slowly, sometimes even over several months, and can include:
- Weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Low blood pressure (sometimes causing fainting)
- Abdominal pain
- Joint and muscle pains
Cushing’s disease: this disease occurs when the pituitary gland overproduces the hormone causing an overactive adrenal gland.
Depending on the severity of the disease, symptoms can include:
- Weight gain
- Stretch marks (usually pink or purple in colour)
For women, additional symptoms can include:
- Thicker and more visible body hair
- Irregular or missed menstrual periods.
For men, additional symptoms can include:
- Decreased fertility
- Erectile dysfunction.
Diabetes: issues with insulin production can cause too much sugar to be in the blood. Diabetes is the most common endocrine disease in the United States.
Common symptoms of diabetes can include:
- Increased hunger
- Dry mouth and heavy thirst
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Pain in your stomach.
Hypopituitarism: this disease occurs when the pituitary gland releases little or no hormones.
Common symptoms of hypopituitarism can include:
- Stomach pain
- Increased thirst and urination
- Weight loss or weight gain.
Menstruation issues: this can either be irregular or lack of menstruation and can be caused by condition such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), pituitary adenoma or primary ovarian failure.
Neuro-endocrine tumours: these tumours normally affect the adrenal gland, pancreas and small bowel.
Parathyroid issues: if the parathyroid becomes enlarged, this can lead to high calcium levels in the blood.
Pituitary adenomas: tumours of the pituitary gland can make too much or too little of a hormone and can be small or large.
Thyroid issues: the thyroid gland can become overactive (hyperthyroidism) or underactive (hypothyroidism).
Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism can include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Muscle weakness
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Frequent bowel movement.
Common symptoms of hypothyroidism can include:
- Dry skin
- Weight gain
- Muscle weakness
- Thinning hair.