Endocrinology is the study of hormones and hormone-related conditions.  

Hormones are secreted by endocrine glands and communicate with other regions of the body to regulate everyday functions such as body temperature, mood, and growth. If an endocrine gland releases too many or too few hormones then it can lead to issues within the body.  

Here you’ll find an overview of the glands which make up the endocrine system as well as the resulting issues which may arise when the correct level of hormones are not secreted.  

The Endocrine System

The endocrine system consists of a series of glands, each of which releases hormones to control bodily functions. Once hormones are released from the glands, they enter the bloodstream where they then travel to vital organs and tissues to enable effective communication throughout the body.

Adrenal Glands

Located above the kidneys, the adrenal glands secrete a number of hormones that are associated with the immune system and bodily responses to stress.  

When secreting too many hormones, the adrenal glands can cause raised blood pressure, excessive sweating, and increased anxiety levels. The release of too few hormones can lead to a loss of energy, anaemia, and weight loss.

Hypothalamus

Situated just above the brainstem, the hypothalamus controls a number of bodily functions which include respiration, heart rate, and sleep.

The hypothalamus is attached to the pituitary gland which serves to link the nervous system to the endocrine system. If the pituitary gland produces an excess of hormones, it may result in excessive growth, whereas a restricted production of hormones can lead to slow bone growth.

Ovaries and Testicles

The ovaries secrete estrogen and progesterone, hormones which promote sexual development, fertility, and menstruation.

The testicles secrete androgens such as testosterone.  Androgens similarly promote sexual development, and also control libido, the growth of facial hair, and the formation of sperm cells. 

Pancreas

The pancreas is situated in the abdomen and is both an endocrine gland and a digestive organ.  

As it releases insulin, the pancreas is crucial for carbohydrate and fat metabolism within the body.  It also releases glucagon which is able to raise blood glucose levels when they fall too low.

As such, issues with the pancreas can lead to digestive issues and diabetes.

Parathyroid Glands

Responsible for producing hormones that regulate calcium and phosphate levels in the blood, the parathyroid glands are involved in the functioning of muscles and nerves.

Secreting too many hormones can lead to brittle bones which are prone to fracturing, while secreting too few may result in involuntary muscle contractions. 

Pineal Gland

Situated deep within the brain, the pineal gland releases melatonin which aids with the body’s sleep patterns. Consequently, issues with the pineal gland can lead to impaired sleep and insomnia.

Thymus Gland

The thymus gland is located beneath the sternum and plays an important role in protecting the body against illness and infection.

Due to its role in the immune system, secreting too many hormones can result in an overactive immune system which will overreact to any perceived illnesses. Releasing too few will therefore lead to a weakened immune system.

Thyroid Gland

Located below the Adam’s apple, the thyroid gland secretes hormones that are responsible for regulating a number of functions which include the body’s metabolism, heart rate, and blood pressure.

Secreting an excessive number of hormones can lead to sweating, anxiety, and accelerated metabolism. Under-production may result in fatigue, weight gain, and depression. 

What is an Endocrinologist?

An Endocrinologist is a doctor who specialises in diagnosing and treating hormone imbalances and the above conditions which may be affecting the glands.

If you suspect you may have an endocrine disorder, then it may well be worth speaking to a specialist at OneWelbeck endocrinology as they’ll be able to use their expertise to identify and treat all aspects of endocrinology. 

Final Thoughts

Issues with the endocrine system are not uncommon and it’s always a good idea to consult with a specialist Endocrinologist if, after reading the information above, you suspect the symptoms you’re experiencing stem from one of your endocrine glands. Treatment will generally be in the form of medication or surgery, depending on the condition identified, and will aid in returning your hormone production to a normal level.

Cite this article as:
Editorial Staff, "What is Endocrinology?," in Medicalopedia, December 10, 2020, [Permalink: https://www.medicalopedia.org/9444/what-is-endocrinology/].