Diseases of the endocrine system: main characteristics and types.
Review of the most important endocrine system diseases, explaining their effects on health.
The endocrine system is the set of organs and tissues of the body that secrete a series of compounds known as hormones. secrete a series of compounds known as hormones..
These substances, produced and released by the endocrine glands, are released into the bloodstream to travel through it and regulate specific functions at points far from where they are produced.
Among the main hormone-secreting structures are the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, epiphysis and pancreas, among many others. These substances traveling through our circulatory system modulate really important functions in the human body: from metabolism and growth to reproduction.
Therefore, excessive or deficient production of these essential messengers can lead to various imbalances in the metabolic and behavioral balance of the individual. Here are some of the diseases of the endocrine diseases of the endocrine system and their peculiarities..
Diseases of the endocrine system: between messengers and controllers
Before we dive into the diseases of the endocrine system of major clinical interest, it is necessary to quickly fly over the world of hormones, because we cannot understand the effects of the lack or excess of hormones without understanding their functions. In general, the hormonal effect can be differentiated into three possible events:
- Stimulant: promotes the activity of a tissue.
- Inhibitory: decreases the activity of a tissue.
- Tropic: altering the metabolism of another endocrine tissue.
Simple, isn't it? Things get more complicated if we consider the type of hormonal communication (endocrine, paracrine, autocrine or neuroendocrine) or the chemical classification of substances (water-soluble and fat-soluble). Fortunately or unfortunately, this is not an advanced biochemistry lesson, and therefore, we only want to make one idea clear. This is that endocrine disorders are divided into two different modalities:
- By too much hormone secretion (hyper).
- By deficit of hormone secretion (hypo).
Diseases of the endocrine system are due to the fact that, as with any biological adaptation, an element of the human body can give rise to diseases despite the fact that its existence is due to the fact that it is usually beneficial. In other words, an adaptation can continue to be transmitted to new generations as long as the benefits it brings compensate for the diseases to which it gives rise (specifically, the pathologies that hinder the ability to reproduce and have offspring).
It should not be forgotten that hormones are molecules and, therefore, are not intelligent; and the same is true of the glands that secrete them. Therefore, when their way of functioning begins to fail, they have no reason to "learn" how to correct the situation, so in many cases it is necessary to seek help from the glands that secrete them. in many cases, external help through medical treatment is necessary..
This is a very general division, but it certainly helps to categorize the different diseases of the endocrine system in a simple and effective way. Now, let's get down to business.
Its main types
These are examples of the most important types of endocrine system diseases, taking into account which are the most common pathologies of this kind.
Hyperthyroidism presents with a characteristic clinical picture due to the hyperproduction of thyroid hormones by the thyroid (redundancy) and the by the thyroid (redundancy), and is due to multiple causes. According to the Hospital Universitario Ramón y Cajal, this pathology affects 0.3 to 1 % of the general population. It is more frequent in women than in men and in the geriatric population it can reach a prevalence of almost 5%. Therefore, we are dealing with a pathology largely linked to age.
Among its most common symptoms are intolerance to heat, palpitations, nervousness, insomnia, irritability, hyperkinexia, weight loss and hyperdefecation.. All these signs are caused by the hyperproduction of the aforementioned thyroid hormones, which control the use of energy in many tissues and processes.
Finally, and to conclude this brief summary, it should not be forgotten that Graves' disease is the most common general cause of hyperthyroidism. In this disorder, the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, causing its hyperstimulation.
As we can see from the prefix of the term, this is the complete opposite case. In hypothyroidism the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the hormone already named, which causes various alterations in the individual's chemical balance. in the chemical balance of the individual.
Once again, this pathology is biased by age and sex: only 0.2% of men have it, while up to 2% of women may experience it late in life.
As in the previous case, the associated symptomatology will vary according to the severity of the hormonal deficit. Moreover, these signs are succinct and gradual: they range from a dull facial structure to confusion and constipation. Of course, when observing a patient with prolonged hypothyroidism, it is common to feel that the person is "running out of battery".
It is very important to know that in the Global South and other areas where economic development is low this disease is very common. This is due to chronic iodine deficiency in the diet..
3. Cushing's disease
We change paradigm completely, because now we must focus our attention on a malfunction of the pituitary gland, leaving behind the already known thyroid gland. In this case, the endocrine gland in question produces an excess of the hormone adrenocorticotrophic hormone adrenocorticotropin. an excess of the hormone adrenocorticotropin, which promotes the formation of cortisol (also known as the stress hormone).
This is an even less common pathology than the previous ones, with only 1.2 to 2.4 cases per million inhabitants per year. Again, women are up to 8 times more likely to suffer from it at some point in their lives.
In addition, this pathology is not usually linked to autoimmune disorders as is the case with the two previous ones, but usually occurs after prolonged ingestion of corticosteroid drugs or due to the presence of a pituitary tumor.
The most common symptoms are obesity above the waist, round and red face and slow growth rate in children.. Again, readers will not be surprised to note that we are dealing with a pathology that presents itself in a variety of seemingly unconnected ways. As we have seen so far, hormones regulate a series of very different processes, so it is natural that the clinical manifestations are different.
How can we list the most relevant endocrine system diseases without mentioning diabetes? As macabre as it may seem, we leave the most interesting for last (from an epidemiological point of view).
Diabetes is defined as a disease in which Blood sugar (glucose) levels are very high.. This is caused by an inadequate use or utilization of the insulin hormone by the individual. The World Health Organization (WHO) collects a series of data of great interest about this pathology:
The number of people with diabetes increased from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014. The prevalence of diabetes has increased from 4.7% to 8.5% in recent decades. It is estimated that in 2016, this pathology was the cause of 1.6 million deaths.
We are certainly facing the queen of endocrine system diseases. Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst and urination, increased appetite, fatigue, blurred vision, numbness of hands and feet, non-healing ulcers and unexplained weight loss. Depending on the type of diabetes (1 or 2), the signs can be rapid or very slow and prolonged in time.
In addition, it is necessary to emphasize that this type of disorder in type 2 is conditioned by factors extrinsic to the individual (something new in this space), since overweight, physical inactivity, fat location and obesity are clearly correlated with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
This is a pathology that is being treated almost as if it were a pandemic or a viral disease, as the WHO has set up various plans for the prevention of type 2 diabetes. WHO has set up various plans for the detection and prevention of this hormonal imbalance.. These include the "WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health" and the "WHO module on the diagnosis and treatment of type 2 diabetes". Undoubtedly, this is a fascinating disease from a clinical point of view, as its emergence and prevalence have increased considerably in recent years.
As we have seen, we are dealing with a series of very multifaceted pathologies, since they manifest themselves with very general clinical pictures and variable affectation depending on the excess (or deficit) of the hormone affected. In addition, it is important to emphasize that we have left out several diseases such as Addison's disease, acromegaly and various disorders of puberty and reproductive function.
Fortunately, the detection of these types of disorders is often simple when they are suspected.It is enough to measure the hormone concentrations in the blood to begin to make an effective diagnosis. Although many of them have an important genetic component or are beyond the patient's reach (such as the formation of tumors or autoimmune failures), it is necessary to emphasize that other pathologies such as diabetes are linked to people's lifestyle and sedentary lifestyle.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)