This lesson discusses seven endocrine diseases as well as the hormones involved. Specifically, we explore diabetes mellitus, Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, and hypoparathyroidism.
A Conduit for Hormones
If you take a little boat and put it right at the start of the Amazon River, you could end up almost anywhere along its length and tributaries.
The water of the Amazon River can carry you to very distant lands, villages, and all the way to the ocean. This river, like almost any other river in the world, is a great transport system for watercraft, fish, and unfortunately, toxic waste that’s carelessly dumped into it.Equivalently, your body has a great conduit for transporting its hormones all over the place. We call it the circulatory system. The system that dumps the hormones that exert physiological actions upon your body is known as the endocrine system, and we’ll be discussing its common – and less-common but no less important – diseases for this lesson.
Diabetes, Addison’s, and Cushing’s
The most common endocrine disorder in the U.S.
, one that leads to high blood sugar, is known as diabetes mellitus. Diabetes occurs because the body cannot produce or react to a hormone known as insulin. Insulin is produced by the beta cells of the pancreas. The pancreas is an organ that sits by your stomach that not only produces the hormone insulin but also makes little proteins called enzymes, which help you to digest your food.
The insulin that is produced by the pancreas is like a key that fits into cells of your body and opens a door for blood sugar, known as glucose. This allows the blood sugar to enter the cell, where it will be used to power energy-producing processes. But if this doesn’t happen and high blood sugar occurs, then people can experience problems with their eyes, kidneys, and nerves.Another type of endocrine disorder is known as Addison’s disease. Addison’s disease is a condition that occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough steroid hormones. These hormones are important for many functions in the body, such influencing the levels of blood sugar, responding to stress, and ensuring that water and electrolyte balance within the body is kept at a stable level.Many times, Addison’s disease occurs because a person’s immune system actually attacks the adrenal glands! The immune system is normally supposed to protect you from viruses and bacteria, but in an autoimmune disease it erroneously and egregiously goes after you instead.
It’s like having your protector, like a parent, best friend, or the local police force, all trying to hurt you for no good reason.The flipside to Addison’s disease is something known as Cushing’s syndrome, a disorder that occurs when a person has a high level of a steroid, a glucocorticoid, known as cortisol. This can occur naturally (due to something like a tumor) or if a person is taking too many corticosteroids to treat another disease. While cortisol in normal amounts is an important steroid hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar use by your body and helps to counter the immune system’s sometimes destructive effects upon your body, too much of anything is bad. Cushing’s syndrome can cause thin, easily bruised skin and skin infections, fat collection between the shoulders (known as a buffalo hump), and a round, full face (known as a moon face) in addition to impotence and fatigue.
Thyroid and Parathyroid Glands
Speaking of fatigue, one endocrine disease that is often associated with fatigue is known as hypothyroidism, or more commonly as an underactive thyroid gland, where ‘hypo-‘ implies there’s a low amount of something.
Your butterfly-shaped thyroid gland produces thyroid hormones. These are like booster shots, coffee, and energy drinks for your body all at once. The thyroid hormones regulate your body’s temperature, heart rate, and the use of nutrients for energy-producing processes. So I think it makes sense that if you lose the thyroid hormones, then less energy is produced, and fatigue is the definition of feeling like you don’t have any energy. Since you’re not moving around much and because the thyroid hormone isn’t helping your metabolism out, people with hypothyroidism can also gain a bit of weight.But weight loss is attributed to the opposite of hypothyroidism, something known as hyperthyroidism.
Colloquially it’s called an overactive thyroid gland, where ‘hyper-‘ refers to the fact that there’s too much of something. Here, too much thyroid hormone is made – meaning you’re chugging way too many coffees in the morning or energy shots while cramming for the exam. Hyperthyroidism, as with too many energy drinks, leads to a high heart rate, tremors, and irritability.The thyroid gland that produces too much thyroid hormone in hyperthyroidism is a relatively large gland when compared to four smaller, pea-sized parathyroid glands located on the back of the thyroid gland itself. Parathyroid glands produce a hormone called a parathyroid hormone (PTH).
Thankfully, that should be easy to recall. Anyways, even though these glands are smaller, they still produce this important hormone, one that helps to regulate the calcium balance in your body. Calcium is the mineral that helps to build strong bones.If there’s too much parathyroid hormone, known as hyperparathyroidism, then a lot of calcium is sucked out from the bones of your body in order to send it elsewhere. Picture chipping away little by little at a big, strong tree in order to use its wood for something else.
The tree will eventually crack and break. This is what happens to bones in hyperparathyroidism as calcium is chipped away.On the other hand, too little parathyroid hormone, called hypoparathyroidism, means that while the bones may have enough calcium, the rest of the body doesn’t. Calcium is a very important substance that helps your nerves and muscles function properly. Therefore, if these nerves and muscles don’t get enough calcium, they’ll begin to malfunction. This causes muscle cramps and spasms, pain, and tingling in a person’s fingers, toes, and lips.
You know how kids sort of spaz out if they don’t get fed? Well, calcium is a nutrient for these muscles and nerves, and if they don’t get it (and get it right now), they’ll spaz out too, leading to all the stuff I described before.
I pray this lesson didn’t make you spaz out, though, since I’d like to review everything.The most common endocrine disorder in the U.S., one that leads to high blood sugar, is known as diabetes mellitus. Diabetes occurs because the body cannot produce or react to a hormone known as insulin.Another type of endocrine disorder is known as Addison’s disease.
Addison’s disease is a condition that occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough steroid hormones. This can often occur as a consequence of a person’s immune system attacking the adrenal glands.The flipside to Addison’s disease is known as Cushing’s syndrome, a disorder that occurs when a person has a high level of a steroid, a glucocorticoid, known as cortisol. Cushing’s syndrome can cause thin, easily-bruised skin and skin infection, as well as fatigue.Fatigue is also often associated with hypothyroidism, or more commonly as an underactive thyroid gland, where ‘hypo-‘ implies there’s a low amount of something.
The thyroid gland makes energy-boosting thyroid hormones, and a lack of them leads to energy loss and weight gain.Conversely, weight loss is attributed to the opposite of hypothyroidism, something known as hyperthyroidism, or colloquially called an overactive thyroid gland, where ‘hyper-‘ refers to the fact that there’s too much of something. Too much energetic thyroid hormone leads to irritability, tremors, and a high heart rate as well.On the backside of the thyroid gland are four parathyroid glands that make parathyroid hormone.
If there’s too much parathyroid hormone, something known as hyperparathyroidism, then this can lead to the weakening of bones.On the other hand, too little parathyroid hormone, something called hypoparathyroidism, can result in muscle cramps and spasms, pain, and tingling in a person’s finger, toes, and lips.
After this lesson is completed, you should be able to:
- Define endocrine disease
- Identify the symptoms of diabetes, Addison’s and Cushing’s
- Understand the diseases associated with the thyroid and parathyroids