Diseases of the endocrine system: main features and types

The endocrine system is the set of organs and tissues in the body that they secrete a number of compounds called hormones.

These substances, produced and released by the endocrine glands, are poured into the bloodstream to cross it and regulate specific functions at points far from where it is produced.

Some of the major hormone-secreting structures include the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid gland, epiphysis, and pancreas, among others. These substances that travel through our circulatory system modulate really important functions in the human body: from metabolism and growth to reproduction.

Therefore, the excessive or deficient production of these essential messengers can lead to various imbalances with regard to the metabolic and behavioral balance of the individual. Here are some comments diseases of the endocrine system and their peculiarities.

    Diseases of the endocrine system: between messengers and controllers

    Before we delve fully into the diseases of the endocrine system of the greatest clinical interest, it is necessary to take a quick overview of the world of hormones, since one cannot understand the effects of a lack or an excess of them without understand their functions. Usually, the hormonal effect can be differentiated into three possible events:

    • Stimulant: promotes the activity of a tissue.
    • Inhibitor: decreases the activity of a tissue.
    • Tropic: which changes the metabolism of another endocrine tissue.

    Simple, right? The thing is 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, we are not faced with an advanced biochemistry lesson, and for this reason, we just want to clarify an idea. That’s it endocrine disorders are divided into two different modalities:

    • For too much hormonal secretion (hyper).
    • For hormonal secretion deficit (hiccups).

    This is a very general division, but it certainly helps categorize different diseases of the endocrine system in a simple and effective way. Now yes, let’s get to the heart of the matter.

    Its main types

    These are examples of the most important types of diseases of the endocrine system.

    1. Hyperthyroidism

    Hyperthyroidism presents a clinical picture characteristic of the overproduction of thyroid hormones by the thyroid (worth the redundancy), and obeys multiple causes. According to Ramón i Cajal University Hospital, this pathology affects 0.3 to 1% of the general population. It is more common in women than in men and in the geriatric population can reach a prevalence of almost 5%. It is therefore a pathology largely linked to age.

    Among its most common symptoms are heat intolerance, palpitations, nervousness, insomnia, irritability, hyperkinesia, weight loss and hyperdefecation. All of these signs are due to the overproduction of the aforementioned thyroid hormones, as they control the use of energy in many tissues and processes.

    Finally, and to conclude this brief summary, it should be remembered that Graves’ disease is the most common general cause of hyperthyroidism. In this disorder, the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland, causing it to become hyperstimulated.

      2. Hypothyroidism

      As we can see from the prefix of the term, we are faced with the completely opposite case. In hypothyroidism the thyroid gland does not produce enough of the hormone already named, which causes several changes in the chemical balance of the individual.

      Again, this is a pathology biased by age and gender: only 0.2% of men are affected, while up to 2% of women can experience it in advanced stages. of their life.

      As in the previous case, the associated symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the hormonal deficit. Plus, these signs are succinct and gradual: ranging from a dull facial structure to confusion and constipation. Of course, when observing a patient with prolonged hypothyroidism, it is common to think that this person is “low on battery”.

      It is very important to know that in the countries of the South and in other regions where the economic development is under this disease is very common. This is due to the fact chronic iodine deficiency in the diet.

      3. Cushing’s disease

      We are completely changing the paradigm, as we now have to focus our attention on a faulty pituitary gland, leaving behind the already known thyroid gland. In this case, the endocrine gland in question produces an excess of the hormone adrenocorticotropin, which promotes the formation of cortisol (Also known as the stress hormone).

      We are faced with a pathology that is even less common than the previous ones, since there are only 1.2 to 2.4 cases per year and per million inhabitants. Again, a woman is up to 8 times more likely to have it at some point in her life.

      In addition, this pathology is usually not as related to autoimmune diseases as the previous two, but usually occurs after prolonged ingestion of corticosteroids or the presence of a pituitary tumor.

      The most common symptoms are obesity above the waist, round red face and slow growth rate in children. Once again, readers will not be surprised to find that we are dealing with a condition that presents itself in varied and seemingly unrelated ways. As we have seen so far, hormones regulate a number of processes that are very different from each other, so it is natural that the clinical manifestations are different.

        4. Diabetes

        How to count the most relevant diseases of the endocrine system without talking about diabetes? As gruesome as it sounds, we’ve left the most interesting for last (from an epidemiological standpoint).

        Diabetes is defined as a disease in which the levels of sugar in the blood (glucose) are very high. This is caused by improper use or use of the hormone insulin by the individual. The World Health Organization (WHO) is collecting a series of very interesting data on 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 disease caused 1.6 million deaths.

        Of course, we are facing the queen of diseases of the endocrine system. Symptoms of diabetes include increased thirst and the urge to urinate, increased appetite, fatigue, blurred vision, numbness in the hands and feet, ulcers that do not heal, and weight loss without apparent cause. Depending on the type of diabetes (1 or 2), the signs can be rapid or very slow and prolonged over time.

        In addition, it should be noted that this type of type 2 disorder is conditioned by factors extrinsic to the individual (Something new in this space), because being overweight, physical inactivity, fat localization, and obesity are clearly correlated with the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

        We are dealing with a condition that is treated almost as if it were a pandemic or a viral disease, because WHO has launched several plans to detect and prevent this hormonal imbalance. Among them we find in the “WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health” or “The WHO Module on Diagnosis and Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes”. It is undoubtedly a fascinating disease from a clinical point of view, as its emergence and prevalence have increased dramatically in recent years.


        As as we have seen, we are confronted with a series of very multifaceted pathologies, as they manifest themselves with very general clinical conditions and of variable affectation according to the excess (or deficit) of the affected hormone . Also, it is important to point out that we have left several diseases in the inkwell, such as Addison’s disease, acromegaly, and various disorders of puberty and reproductive function.

        Fortunately, detection of these disorders is usually straightforward if they are suspectedBecause by measuring hormone levels in the blood, it is enough to begin to make an effective diagnosis. Although many of them have an important genetic component or are beyond the reach of the patient (such as tumor formation or autoimmune failures), it should be noted that other conditions such as diabetes are linked to the disease. lifestyle and sedentary lifestyle of people.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Infant Amorós, A. and Turcios Tristán, ES (2012). Hyperthyroidism. Cuban Journal of Endocrinology, 23 (3), 213-220.
        • Endocrine System, cancer.gov. Collected September 13 at https://www.cancer.gov/espanol/publicaciones/diccionario/def/sistema-endocrino
        • Hormonal and Metabolic Disorders, MSDmanuals.com. Collected September 13 at https://www.msdmanuals.com/es-es/hogar/trastornos-hormonales-y-metab%C3%B3licos/biolog%C3%ADa-del-sistema-endocrino/trastornos-endocrinos
        • Patient suffering from hyperthyroidism, Ramón i Cajal University Hospital. Collected September 13 at http://www.hrc.es/pdf/asistencia/enfermeria/planescuidado/pc6_HPER.pdf
        • Gómez Meléndez, GA, Ruiz Betanzos, R., Sánchez Pedraza, V., Segovia Colom, A., Mendoza Hernández, CF, and Arellano Montaño, S. (2010). Hypothyroidism. Mexican Internal Medicine, 26 (5), 462-471.

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