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Endocrine System Diseases

Chevy Chase, Maryland - United States

The endocrine system is composed of a network of organs and glands responsible for producing, storing, and secreting hormones that help to maintain and control vital functions such as growth, reproduction, and energy levels. There are several endocrine system diseases that result from disruptions in this complex system:
Diabetes - One of the more prevalent endocrine system diseases, diabetes is a condition in which the pancreas does not produce enough of the hormone insulin or the body does not effectively use the insulin it does produce. Because insulin is instrumental in helping the body convert sugars and starches into necessary energy, there can be serious consequences if diabetes is left undiagnosed and/or untreated.

Growth Disorders - Given that the endocrine system regulates growth processes, endocrine system diseases often result in growth disorders. If the body produces too much growth hormone (GH), gigantism or acromegaly (gigantism in adults) can occur; too little growth hormone results a condition called growth hormone deficiency, or GHD, which can cause children to grow more slowly than normal.

Osteoporosis - Osteoporosis, which occurs in both women and men (although the former are four times more likely to develop the disease), is a condition in which bones become fragile and more likely to break. This can be the result of many factors including a decrease in the hormone estrogen occurring during menopause in women, or a decrease in testosterone occurring in men as they age. Because osteoporosis often has no obvious symptoms, it is often left undiagnosed until the person affected suffers a broken or fractured bone during a minor fall.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome - Also referred to as PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome is one of the more common endocrine system diseases, affecting between 7% to 10% of women aged 15 to 45. PCOS is a condition associated with symptoms of infrequent or irregular menstruation, male hormone excess symptoms like hirsutism (increased and unwanted hair growth) and acne and difficulty to conceive. Patients with PCOS can also have multiple egg-containing cysts on the ovaries. They are higher risk for metabolic complications like diabetes and hypertension.

Thyroid Disorders - Thyroid hormones, hormones produced by the thyroid gland, influence nearly all of the body's symptoms. Thyroid problems include hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormone), hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone), thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer, and more.
This is an incomplete list; there are many more endocrine system diseases. Visit our endocrine system diseases and conditions page to access more detailed information about these and other disorders, their symptoms, and their treatments.
In addition to the endocrine system diseases listed above, there are a number of hormone disorders that are far more rare. Cushing's syndrome and Addison's disease are two of these less common diseases.
Cushing's Syndrome
Cushing's syndrome, less common than the endocrine system diseases discussed above, occurs as the result of too much cortisol in the blood for an extended period of time. Cortisol is a hormone that, in normal amounts, helps the body perform a number of important functions including converting fat into energy, maintaining immune system function, and responding to stress.
The two types of Cushing's syndrome, exogenous (from an outside source) and endogenous (from a source within the body), share a common list of symptoms but different causes. Exogenous Cushing's syndrome occurs in patients taking cortisol-like medications, and is temporary, ceasing when the patient has finished the course of medication. The endogenous form of this endocrine system disease is far rarer, and results from a tumor or tumors either on the adrenal glands or the pituitary gland.
Cushing's syndrome symptoms include the following:
Weight gain
Muscle loss and weakness
Easily-bruised, fragile skin
Reduced sex drive
Depression/inability to think clearly
This is only a partial list of Cushing's syndrome symptoms. For a full list of symptoms click on the Cushing's syndrome link on the rare endocrine system diseases page.
Addison's Disease
Addison's disease, also among the rare endocrine system diseases, occurs in fewer than 150 people in a million. Also referred to as primary adrenal insufficiency, Addison's disease occurs when the adrenal glands, which are located at the top of each kidney, produce an insufficient amount of steroid hormones despite the presence of an adequate amount of ACTH, the hormone that triggers the adrenal glands to release steroids.
The steroid hormones produced by the adrenal glands, and deficient during Addison's disease, hold many important functions including the regulation of blood sugar levels, helping the body fight infection and stress, and maintaining normal sexual drive. Addison's disease symptoms include the following:
Fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite
Muscle and joint pain
Gastrointestinal problems (nausea, vomiting, etc.)
Darkening of the skin on the face, neck, and back of hands
Low blood pressure
A craving for salt

  • Category:

    Anatomy - Endocrine System

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    Endocrine System Diseases: Cushing's Syndrome, Addison's Disease and More
    Visit Hormone.org to learn about endocrine system diseases including diabetes, osteoporosis, PCOS, thyroid disorders, and more.

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    Endocrine - Organs - Diseases - Skin

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