Endocrinology is the branch of medicine that studies the diseases related to hormones. Hormones are high reactive chemicals that are secreted from the various endocrine glands in the human body. Endocrine glands are the ones that secrete their products directly into the blood stream without requiring a duct for its passage. Hormones are essential for our every-day survival. They control our temperature, sleep, mood, stress, growth and much more. They influence or control a wide range of physiological activities, such as puberty, level of alertness, sugar regulation and appetite control and bone growth, etc.
Dr. Vipin Mishra
Al Zahra Hospital
Hormones are like chemical messengers between two very different types of cells in the human body. Hormones are released in one part of the body, travel in the blood stream and have an effect on other part of the body. This helps different parts of the human body to communicate with each other. Most of the endocrine diseases are chronic or life-long diseases. They are of progressive nature and lead to serious complications in due course of time. Because of fast changing lifestyles and rising levels of mental stress, the incidence of endocrine diseases is fast rising all over the world. If these diseases are ideally managed the quality of life as well as the total lifespan significantly improves.
The most important diseases that endocrinologists manage are as follows –
- Diabetes: This is the commonest endocrine disease that develops because of the lack or dysfunction of the hormone insulin. It manifests by high levels of sugar in the blood. If not managed well, high sugar damages the heart, kidneys, nerves, eyes, brain and liver over a period of time.
- Thyroid Diseases: Thyroid gland is situated in the middle of the neck and secretes two hormones T3 and T4. These hormones regulate the proper functioning of all the organs in the body. There may be a sluggish thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), hyperactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or an enlarged thyroid gland (goitre). Many a times the goitre may be due to a thyroid cancer.
- Sex hormonal problems: Ovarian dysfunction may cause male hormonal features in women like facial hair growth and irregularity or cessation of periods. The situation is called Polycystic Ovarian Disease. Similarly some men may develop female characters like development of breasts (gynecomastia)
- Pituitary Diseases: Pituitary gland is situated in the middle of the brain and secretes eight hormones. It is vulnerable to develop tumours. Sometimes it secretes too much of its hormones as in Acromegaly (Growth hormone excess) or excessive secretion of prolactin causing inappropriate milk secretion and cessation of periods. Excessive secretion of ACTH causes a very serious disease called Cushing’s Syndrome. Inadequate secretion of a hormone called ADH causes Diabetes Insipidus that’s characterized by excessive urination and dehydration.
- Adrenal gland diseases: Adrenal glands are situated in the abdomen just above the kidneys. Excessive or sluggish action of adrenal glands may lead to serious diseases including hypertension in young people.
- Parathyroid gland diseases: Parathyroid glands are situated in the neck just embedded in the thyroid gland and regulate the levels of calcium in the blood. Very high and very low levels of calcium are dangerous and may be life threatening.
- Metabolic bone diseases: Bones can sometimes become too fragile (osteoporosis) or two soft (osteomalacia and rickets). These are bone diseases due to hormonal and metabolic reasons treated by endocrinologists.
Endocrine diseases cause significant suffering to the mankind and need specialized and skilled care.