Your endocrine system is an intricate network of glands, hormones, and organs. It regulates many bodily functions, including:
- Blood pressure
- Body temperature
- Bowel movements
- Energy level
- Growth and development
- Heart rate
- Sexual function
How It Works
Endocrine glands produce hormones, which are secreted directly into your bloodstream. From there, the hormones travel to designated organs and tissues, where these chemical messengers trigger specific actions to occur. Different glands produce different types of hormones. There are about 50 different types of hormones produced and used in this way by your body.
Endocrine Glands & How Each Functions
Below are some of the main endocrine glands and the significance of each. Many endocrine disorders involve the adrenal glands, pancreas, pituitary gland, or thyroid.
Your adrenal glands are found in the kidneys and produce hormones – like adrenaline and cortisol – that help regulate bodily functions like your response to stress and your heart rate and blood pressure.
Located in the brain are the hypothalamus as well as the pituitary and pineal glands.
The hypothalamus connects the nervous system with the endocrine system. It picks up cues from the brain (light, cold, heat, emotions) that, in turn, affect the release of pituitary gland hormones.
Sometimes called the master gland, the pituitary gland influences many other glands within the endocrine system. The pituitary produces hormones that control growth and development.
The pineal gland helps to regulate your sleep-wake cycles.
The pancreas connects the endocrine and digestive systems. It is located in your abdomen, behind the stomach. The pancreas creates insulin, which helps your body use the sugar in your blood.
The ovaries (in women) and testes (in men) produce hormones vital to fertility and reproduction. This includes estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone.
This gland contributes to the development of T cells, a white blood cell key to immune system response, up until puberty. The thymus is located under the breastbone.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the front of your neck. It is responsible for your metabolism, which controls how quickly you burn calories and how fast your heart beats, among other things.
The parathyroid glands are located next to the thyroid and helps to control calcium levels in your bones and blood.
Conditions We Treat
When something goes wrong with any part of the endocrine system – glands, organs, or hormones – it can result in a variety of medical conditions, including:
- Addison’s disease
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Gigantism (acromegaly)
- Grave’s disease
Most endocrine problems are due to the production of too much or too little of a particular hormone. Issues may also arise if your body fails to respond to hormones, or if environmental factors – like stress or infection – impact your hormone levels, throwing them out of balance.
Diabetes: The Most Common Endocrine Disorder
People with diabetes have blood sugar levels that are too high, which can damage nerves and restrict blood circulation, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney and vision problems, and more.
- Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body fails to produce insulin. It tends to be first diagnosed in childhood.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body becomes resistant to the insulin your body produces and cannot properly use it. In later stages of type 2 diabetes, the body produces insufficient quantities of insulin. This is the most common type of diabetes, and it tends to occur in middle age.
Diagnosing & Treating Endocrine Disorders
The first clues that an endocrine disorder may be causing your symptoms are usually found in blood test results. Your A1C level can indicate whether you have diabetes or prediabetes, for example. Blood and urine tests can be used to detect hormone imbalances, and imaging tests may be used to identify the presence of thyroid nodules or tumors.
Treating endocrine disorder can be challenging, depending on the type of disorder you have. That’s because attempts to restore hormone balance can inadvertently cause other imbalances. In most cases, medication can be prescribed to correct an imbalance and relieve symptoms.
Poorly controlled endocrine disorders can sometimes result in serious complications, so it’s important to receive appropriate medical care and regular monitoring by a physician and other healthcare providers specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of endocrine disorders.
If you suspect or have been told you have an endocrine disorder, make sure you’re getting the best possible care by an expert knowledgeable in the field. Call your Consolidated Medical Practices of Memphis endocrinology provider’s office for more information or to schedule a visit. You can find their phone number by clicking their name above or by visiting our Make an Appointment page.