All About the Endocrine System

The endocrine system (pronounced: EN-duh-krin) is one of the governors of the body. It governs the hormones’ that control almost every organ, cell and function in the body. There are twelve systems (governors) in the body. This article’s focus will be all about the endocrine system.

What is the Endocrine System

The main components of the endocrine system are glands. A gland is an organ that makes and Secrets hormones’ that does a specific job in the body.

Therefore, the endocrine system is a system made up of glands that produce hormones’. Hormones are like chemical messengers to the body that carry data and directions from one set of cells to a different one.

The glands that are involved are:

  • pituitary
  • hypothalamus
  • thyroid
  • parathyroid
  • adrenals
  • pineal body
  • the ovaries
  • the testes
  • The pancreas – belongs to both the endocrine system and the digestive system. Because it secretes hormones’ into the bloodstream, and producers and secretes enzymes into the digestive tract.

What is the function of the Endocrine System

The endocrine glands release hormones’ into the bloodstream. This allows the hormones’ to travel to cells in other parts of the body. As a result these hormones’ help control mood, growth and development, the way our organs work, metabolism (the chemical processes that occur within the body in order to maintain life), and reproduction.

Additionally, the endocrine system regulates how much of each hormone is released. This can depend upon levels of hormones’ already within the blood, or on levels of other substances in the blood, like calcium. Many things affect hormone levels, such as certain diseases, conditions, stress, and infection. They can also be subject to changes in the balance of fluid and minerals in the blood, and aging, the environment, and genetics

Too much or too little of any hormone can cause the body harm. However, medication can be administered to treat a great number of these problems.

The Importance of the endocrine system

The endocrine system is vital to our existence. We need it because without it, there would be mostly no trace of the vital biochemicals I mentioned, hormones’.

Endocrine glands are responsible for the secretion of hormones’ like adrenaline, insulin, thyroxine, and so on. There are 9 main endocrine glands in a human individual that I mentioned earlier. They are known as endocrine because they are a class of glands that pour their secretions directly into the bloodstream, without any ducts to regulate the flow. The pancreas is an exception to this, as it has both endocrine and exocrine parts.

Endocrine glands release chemical substances (hormones’) directly into the bloodstream or tissues of the body. Alternatively, Exocrine glands unleash chemical substances through ducts to the skin of the body or onto another surface inside the body. Some examples of exocrine glands are: salivary glands, sweat glands and pancreatic fluid. Portions of the pancreas secrete pancreatic fluid into the small intestine to digest food. This is what makes it is part of both the endocrine and digestive systems.

The endocrine system interacts with the neural (nervous) system in the body when it comes to communication, and also when it comes to regulation of a particular endocrine gland function in itself. For example, being in dangerous situations triggers our fight/flight response, which happens due to an adrenaline surge from the adrenal glands.

Therefore, endocrine glands are needed because they are crucial to processes like communication, growth and just about every major bodily function.

Glands of the endocrine system

There are nine glands which make up the endocrine system. Their descriptions follow.

Hypothalamus The hypothalamus is a small region located at the base of the brain, near the pituitary gland. While it’s terribly little in size, the hypothalamus plays a vital role in several important functions, including: discharging hormones’, maintaining daily physiological cycles, regulation of emotional responses, and regulation of body heat, managing of sexual behavior, and controlling appetite.

Pituitary Gland This ductless gland is relates to the scale of a pea. It is usually referred to as the master organ of the glands because it controls many different hormone glands within the body, together with the thyroid and adrenals, the ovaries and testicles.  It uses information it gets from the brain to tell other glands in your body what to do. It in addition makes many necessary hormones’, as well as the expansion hormone; luteotropin, that helps breastfeeding moms build milk; and also the interstitial cell-stimulating hormone, that manages the estrogen in women and androgenic hormone (aka testosterone) in men.

Pineal gland Makes a chemical called melatonin that helps your body get ready to go to sleep. It is a hormone which modulates wake/sleep patterns and seasonal changes. The gland is additionally called the third eye. And it’s called the third eye because it is a third eye you have within your brain. Darkness causes the Pineal gland to produce the Melatonin.

Thyroid glandThis gland makes a  hormone which controls your metabolism. It is a bow-tie shaped gland located in the neck. It actually makes two hormones’ that are secreted into the blood: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones’ are required for all the cells in your body to work properly.

ParathyroidThis is a collection of four (4) tiny glands behind your thyroid. They play a role in bone health. These glands control the levels of calcium and phosphorus.

Thymus The thymus starts to shrink after puberty which is why I didn’t mention it in the above list of glands. But for the record, this gland makes white blood cells called T-lymphocytes that fight infection and are crucial as a child’s immune system develops.

Adrenals – The adrenal glands are small glands located on top of each kidney. They generate hormones’ that you just cannot live without, including sex hormones’ and cortisol. Cortisol helps you react to stress and has several alternative necessary functions. They also affect your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to worry (stress) and other alternative functions.

Pancreas As mentioned earlier, this organ does double duty. The Pancreas is an element of both your digestive and endocrine systems. It makes digestive enzymes that break down food. As for the endocrine system, it also makes the hormones’ insulin and glucagon. These guarantee that you have the proper quantity of sugar in your blood and cells.

Ovaries In females, these organs create estrogen and progestin. These hormones facilitate the development of breasts at adolescence, regulate the menstruation cycle, and support a pregnancy.

Ovaries also perform double duty in that they produce eggs to be fertilized to commence a pregnancy; making them part of the reproductive system as well.

Testes Lastly, in men, the testes make testosterone. It helps them grow facial and hair at adolescence. It further plays a major part within the development of male generative tissues like testes and prostate, and promoting secondary sexual characteristics such as like augmented muscle and bone mass, and the growth of body hair.

Below is an illustration of the endocrine system.

The Endocrine System

 

 

Diseases of the endocrine system

Unfortunately, with bodily systems, life happens and the endocrine system is no exception.

Most of them follow below.

Hypopituitarism (hypothalamus and pituitary glands) – Is a condition in which the pituitary gland does not produce one or more of its hormones’ or not enough of them. This condition can occur because of disease in the pituitary or hypothalamus. When there’s low or no production of allthe pituitary hormones’, the condition is called panhypopituitarism.

Hypothyroidism (thyroid gland) is a condition in which the thyroid gland is not able to produce enough thyroid hormone. Since the foremost purpose of this endocrine secretion is to “run the body’s metabolism,” it is reasonable that individuals with this condition can have symptoms related to a slow metabolism.

The estimates vary, but approximately 10 million Americans are likely to have this common medical condition. Additionally, as many as 10% of women may have some degree of thyroid hormone deficiency.

Hypothyroidism is more common than many would believe, and millions of people are currently hypothyroid and don’t even know it. For an summary of how this hormone is made and the way its production is regulated, check out this thyroid hormone production page.

Hyperthyroidism (thyroid gland) – this is the opposite of Hypothyroidism. With this condition, the thyroid is overactive and occurs when the thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine. It therefore can accelerate your body’s metabolism, causing unintentional weight loss and a rapid or irregular heartbeat.

Parathyroidism (parathyroid glands) – the single major disease of parathyroid glands is over activity of one or more of the parathyroids; that’s known as hyperparathyroidism. Under this condition, one or more of the parathyroid glands behaves inappropriately by making excess hormone (PTH) regardless of the level of calcium. In different words, the parathyroid gland still create  giant amounts of parathyroid hormone, even once the calcium level is regular and it shouldn’t be making any at all.

Over-production of this hormone can rob one of their health, causing them to feel run down and tired, causing osteoporosis, and many other serious problems. Fortunately, hyperparathyroidism can be fixed with new minimally invasive surgery techniques in less than 20 minutes in most cases.

In roughly 3 percent or 4 percent of all patients with primary hyperparathyroidism can have an enlargement of all four of these endocrine glands, a term called parathyroid hyperplasia. In this case, all the parathyroid glands become enlarged and produce too much of the parathyroid hormone. This is a much less common condition, but the end results on the tissues of the body are equal.

An even more unusual situation occurs in less than 1% of the people who have 2 parathyroid adenomas while having 2 normal glands. However, this is very infrequent and can make the diagnosis and treatment of this disease a bit complex.

Another disorder of the parathyroid glands occurs when there is not enough parathyroid hormone, leading to under activity. This condition is known as Hypoparathyroidism. This leads to decreased blood levels of calcium and increased levels of blood phosphorus.

This condition is also remedied with surgery which consists of removing the malfunctioning parathyroid gland.

Adrenal gland disorders With adrenal gland disorders, your glands make too much or not enough hormones’. In this condition, Cushing’s syndrome, there’s too much cortisol, while with Addison’s disease, there is too little. Some people are born without the ability to make enough cortisol.

With Cushing’s syndrome, sometimes taking synthetic hormone medicine to treat an inflammatory disease can lead to Cushing’s. Also, some kinds of tumors produce a hormone that can cause your body to make too much cortisol. This
can result in accelerated weight gain, skin that bruises easily, muscle weakness, diabetes, and many other health problems.

With Addison’s disease, it’s usually caused by a problem with the immune system. The immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own tissues, damaging the adrenal glands. Other causes include infections and cancer. This can lead to weight loss, muscle weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure, and sometimes darkening of the skin. If untreated, it can be fatal.

Diabetes (Pancreas) A constellation of diseases that allows too much sugar in the blood (aka high blood glucose). Diabetes is the most common disease of the endocrine system.

There are three (3) major diabetes types: Type 1-  juvenile diabetes, type 2- adult onset diabetes, and gestational diabetes.

In type 1, occurs when the body fails to produce insulin. Insulin the hormone that is accountable for permitting glucose in the blood to enter cells, providing them with the energy to function. A lack of this effective hormone plays a key role within the development of diabetes. Insulin is essential for life. Therefore, people with type I diabetes are insulin-dependent, which means they must take artificial insulin daily to stay alive.

In Type 2, the consequence is the way the body uses insulin. Although the body still makes insulin, unlike in type I, the cells in the body do not respond to it as effectively as they once did. This is the foremost common variety of diabetes, Consistent with the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and it has strong links with obesity.

In Gestational diabetes, the occurrence is in women during pregnancy when the body can become less responsive to insulin. Gestational diabetes does not occur in all women and usually terminates after giving birth.

Less familiar types of diabetes include monogenic diabetes and cystic fibrosis-related diabetes.

Premature ovarian failure (Ovaries) – Also known as (POF) is when a woman’s ovaries stop working (producing eggs) before she is 40.

POF is different from premature menopause. With premature menopause, menstrual periods stop before age 40. You can no longer get pregnant. The cause could be natural or it could be a disease, surgery, cancer therapy, or radiation. With POF, some women still have occasional periods. They may even get pregnant. In most cases of POF, the cause is unknown.

Missed periods are usually the first sign of POF. Later symptoms may be similar to those of natural menopause.

Ovarian cysts (Ovaries) are fluid-filled sacs in or on an ovary. They generally form during ovulation, when the ovary releases an egg. They are typically harmless and disappear by themselves. Most women have them sometime during their lives.

Most cysts of this type are minute and don’t cause symptoms. Women may not find out that they have them until they have a pelvic examination.

Rarely do ovarian cysts become cancerous. This risk increases with age.

A health problem that involves these cysts is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Women with PCOS will have high levels of male hormones’, irregular or no periods, and small ovarian cysts.

Ovarian torsion (Ovaries) – is the twisting of an ovary. The ovary and often the fallopian tube as well become twisted around tissues that contain veins and arteries. It is uncommon but it can cause severe-acute abdominal pain in females, and it is a gynecologic emergency – delay in diagnosing this condition can result in loss of the ovary.

Ovarian Cancer (ovaries) – Cancer of the ovary is not common, but it causes more deaths than other female reproductive cancers. The sooner this cancer is found and treated, the better the chance for recovery. But ovarian cancer is hard to detect early. Women with this particular cancer may not have any symptoms or just minor symptoms until it is in a progressive stage. Then it is difficult to treat.

Testicular Torsion
(Testes) –
Torsion is another word for twisting and for a testicle, that’s not good. When testicular torsion occurs, the twisting kinks as what happens to a garden hose, and blocks the blood vessels to one testicle. Certain men developed a problem during their gestation

that made them susceptible to this male reproductive gland torsion. Although testicular torsion is rare, as with an ovarian torsion, it is an emergency. Sudden pain in a testicle demands an urgent trip to the nearest hospital emergency room. If treatment is delayed, the testicle can die. This condition is most common during puberty – between ages 10 and 15 — so it’s important to let young teens know that any pain should be reported, even in spite of the possible embarrassment.

Epididymitis (Testis) – The epididymis is a long, coiled tube that sits alongside the testicle. Its job is to store male reproductive cells (sperm) where they mature. Epididymitis happens once the channel becomes inflamed or infected. Sometimes, this is a sexually transmitted infection. More often, epididymitis comes from injury, a buildup of pressure such as after a vasectomy, or from urine draining back into the tubules during heavy lifting or straining. Epididymitis can cause symptoms ranging from a mild irritation to severe testicle pain, swelling, and fever.

Varicocele (Testis) – is a dilation of the veins above the testicle. It’s basically a varicose vein and is usually harmless. Occasionally, however, varicoceles can impair fertility or cause mild to moderate pain. If there’s a bulge above the testicle, especially when standing or “bearing down,” then an examination by a doctor is advisable, preferably an urologist.

Hydrocele (Testis) – This is a fluid collection surrounding the testicle and is usually benign. But if it is large enough, it can cause pain or pressure. Though men can develop a hydrocele after an injury, the majority of men with hydroceles have no obvious trauma or known cause.

Testicular cancer (Testis) like any cancer, testicular cancer happens when cells in the testicle develop mutations that cause them to go haywire. These cells may multiply recklessly and invade areas where they don’t belong. In this carcinoma, this method typically creates a slow-growing painless lump or firmness in one of the testicles. In most cases, the man himself discovers it at an early stage. If an individual gets medical attention soon enough, testicular cancer is almost always curable.

How to prevent endocrine diseases

Some endocrine issues, like type 1 diabetes, can’t be prevented. But there are things we can do to prevent other problems or make them better:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Eat healthy foods and get plenty of exercise. This can help avert or delay type 2 diabetes.
  • Include iodine in your diet. It can help prevent thyroid problems. When you use salt, select element (iodized) salt over other forms of salt.
  • Use dietary supplements to insure you’re getting the proper nutrients.
  • Make sure all your doctors know about any hormones’ you’re taking. These may involve contraception drugs, thyroid hormone, insulin, or endocrine medical aid for menopause.

Isn’t it amazing how all the components of the endocrine system work together to help the body function? But none of this can work without the central nervous system. I explain the importance of the central nervous system in my article www.whatisthecentralnervoussystem

Just imagine this is only one of the systems in the body. I will be covering the others in future articles.

In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment or question below.

Good Health!!

 

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “All About the Endocrine System”

  1. Hallo there Nathaniel, 

    I am so grateful for you very informative post. I am currently doing a course that deals with the brain and the internal and external factors that affect its performance and we got to this part about the endocrine system that lost me completely.

    I am glad I came to your website because your way of explanation is very simple and direct, making it easy for me to understand everything. I was actually worried that I might get a retake because we were told that this would be the main theme in the exam.

    However, I feel quite confident now because I’ve understood it. 

    I have bookmarked your website so that I will be coming for better explanation for the topics I don’t get in class which you have talked about here. You’ve definitely earned a loyal reader. Thanks heaps.

    1. Hi Dave – Glad the post helped you!  That’s the whole purpose.  I plan to address all the systems of the human body over time.  So stay tuned.  On the right side is an area where you can also subscribe with your email address and you’ll be notified when a new post is published. The next topic is obesity and it should be up early next week. 

      Good luck with your course!

  2. Wow! This is a detailed article on the Endocrine system. I never knew that the endocrine system is this integral in the body constituent of a human. I personally found this article very enlightening and informative since I do not know of most things I  saw on this post. Also, the main diseases that attack the endocrine system are very deadly and one must take precautions against them to ensure safety. Thanks for sharing so much insights concerning the endocrine system. 

    1. Hi RoDarrick – Yes, I’m into the details!  Thanks for your positive comments.  I plan to cover the remaining 12 systems of the body over time.  So stay tuned!

      Thanks for dropping by!

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