Endocrinology is a medical specialty related to the glandular system and problems with the hormones produced by the glands. Endocrinologists are specialists in endocrinology, although many internists are subspecialists – both diagnose and treat hormonal diseases.
Your primary care physician will check your hormone levels or refer you to an endocrinologist is he or she suspects problems with the endocrine system. Some disorders and diseases treated by endocrinologists include diabetes, menopause, infertility, hypertension, osteoporosis, thyroid imbalances and growth.
So many of the body’s functions are controlled by the glands, which produce hormones that affect growth, sexual development, movement, metabolism and respiration. These hormones are delivered through the blood stream to all your organs and tissues. Following is a list of endocrinal glands:
- The adrenal glands secrete hormones released in response to stress and produce androgens – a male sex hormone. Low testosterone or poor kidney function can be caused by problems with the adrenal glands. Disorders of the adrenal gland can cause hypertension, agitation, unusually perspiration, and Cushing's disease, causes by high levels of the hormone cortisol.
- The hypothalamus gland controls appetite, sleep, temperature, involuntary body functions, the ovaries and testicles and the circadian cycles – our natural rhythms dictated by “biological clocks.” The hypothalamus secretes androgens in males and controls growth of facial hair, sexual behavior, erectile function, sperm production and libido.
- The pancreas produces insulin, which plays a key role in metabolizing fat in the body as well as producing hormones that can affect nervous system function, growth and blood glucose. The most common disease related to the malfunction of the pancreas is diabetes. Your physician will regularly check your insulin level and blood glucose level because diagnosing diabetes Type II at an early stage is critical to treating and controlling it. Your internist or endocrinologist will work with you to monitor diabetes.
- The parathyroid glands produce and hormone that regulates calcium and phosphorous in the blood, the ability of the blood to clot and neuromuscular activity.
- The pineal gland secretes melatonin, which regulates sleep patterns.
- The pituitary gland controls growth and several body functions including pigment, thyroid function, puberty, kidney function and even contractions during childbirth.
- The thymus gland controls the immune system.
- The thyroid produces hormones that regulate blood pressure, body temperature, heart rate, metabolism and more. An overactive thyroid can cause increased metabolism, perspiration, irregular heart beat) weight loss, and nervousness. An underactive thyroid gland may result in fatigue, depression and weight gain.