Conditions affecting the Endocrine System

This page summarises basic information about some conditions of the endocrine system. The level of detail included on this page is appropriate for most first level (e.g. A-Level and ITEC) courses in human biology and bodywork therapies.

The following table lists some common endocrine conditions in alphabetical order.

Condition

Cause

Effect (Symptoms)

Addison's Syndrome

Inadequate secretion of coricosteroid hormones by the adrenal glands, sometimes as a result of tuberculous infection.

Symptoms can include:

Treatment: Formerly fatal, this disease is now treatable by replacement hormone therapy.

Amenorrhoea

Primary amenorrhoea (menstrual periods fail to appear at puberty) may be caused by absence of the uterus or ovaries e.g. Turner’s syndrome, or a hormonal imbalance.

Secondary amenorrhoea (menstrual periods stop after establishment of puberty) may be caused by disorders of the hypothalamus, deficiency of ovarian, pituitary, or thyroid hormones, mental disturbance, depression, anorexia nervosa, or a major change of surroundings or circumstances.

The absence or stopping of the menstrual periods.

(It is normal for the periods to be absent before puberty, during pregnancy and milk secretion, and after the end of the reproductive period.)

Cushing's Syndrome

Excess amounts of cortico-steroid hormones in the body.

Symptoms can include:

  • weight gain
  • reddening of the face and neck
  • excess growth of body and facial hair
  • raised blood pressure
  • loss of mineral from the bones (osteoporosis)
  • raised blood glucose levels
  • sometimes also mental disturbances

Diabetes

Inability of the body to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood so that it remains within a healthy concentration range. Too much or too little sugar in the blood can lead to adverse effects.

'Hypo' (not enough sugar in the blood)

  • sweating
  • shakes
  • light-headedness
  • if extreme, death may result

'Hyper' (too much sugar in the blood)

  • urination
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • keto-acidosis
  • if extreme, death may result

Menopause

Cessation of viable egg production in the female.

Can involve hormonal imbalance, lack of negative feedback to the hypothalamus / activity, continued release of FSH.

Symptoms can include:

  • hot flushes
  • night sweats
  • mood swings
  • increased risk of heart attack
  • osteoporosis speeding-up

Medical Treatment: Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), with associated increased risk of breast cancer.

Pre-menstrual Syndrome

Associated with the accumulation of salt and water in tissues.

The hormone progesterone is thought to be a causative element. A deficiency of fatty acids has also been observed.

Can include:

  • nervousness
  • irritability
  • emotional disturbance
  • headache
  • depression

Some or all of these have been said to affect some women for up to about 10 days prior to menstruation.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

A hormonal disorder characterized by incomplete development of Graafian follicles in the ovary due to inadequate secretion of luteinizing hormone.

The follicles fail to ovulate and remain as multiple cysts distending the ovary.

Further hormone imbalance results in obesity, hirsutism and acne and the woman is infertile due to the lack of ovulation.

The treatment is administration of the appropriate hormones.

See also a general introduction to the endocrine system and information about the main endocrine glands.

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