Endocrinology is a field in biology and medicine that deals with the endocrine system. The organs involved in the endocrine system include the pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, ovaries, testes and pancreas. These glands secrete hormones into the blood. Hormones of the endocrine system perform a variety of functions, and some hormones may have different effects depending on which organ is targeted. Organs may be targeted by a number of different hormones.
Endocrinopathy or endocrinosis are the terms used for diseases of the endocrine system. However, these conditions are often called hormone imbalances. Endocrinology may involve diagnosing and treating diseases of this system. Diagnosis often encompasses evaluating for a variety of symptoms and requires knowledge of clinical chemistry and biochemistry. Many laboratory tests also are used, including diagnostic imaging. Managing these diseases often requires long-term treatment and may involve treating the patient as a whole and maintaining observation of changes at the cellular or molecular level.
Endocrinologists must deal with many systems within the body, and researchers in the endocrinology field have tried to determine how the glands work. Researchers have also developed new drugs and treatments for hormone problems.
Other concerns of endocrinology include the integration of developmental events such as proliferation, growth and differentiation. Processes of differentiation may include histogenesis and organogenesis. Endocrinology also entails the coordination of many of the body’s systems, including metabolism, respiration, excretion, movement, reproduction and sensory perception. These systems may be examined on a chemical or cellular level and are observed based on chemical cues and secretions by various organs within the body.
Endocrine diseases are caused when hormone levels are too high or too low, or when the body does not react to hormones the way it is supposed to.
The most common endocrine disease in the U.S. is diabetes. However, other conditions treated within endocrinology include osteoporosis, menopause, obesity, short stature, thyroid disease, hypertension and infertility.
Treatments typically involve controlling the amount of hormone the body produces, and, in cases of hormone deficiency, the use of hormone supplements.
Fast facts on endocrinology
Here are some key points about endocrinology. More information is in the main article.
A hormone imbalance can result from genetic or environmental factors.
Some infants are born with hormonal problems that can lead to a range of health issues, such as low growth.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as pesticides, lead, and phthalates, which are used in plastic food containers, can sometimes lead to hormonal problems.
There are three broad groups of endocrine disorders:
Here are some examples of what can happen if a gland secretes too much or too little of its hormones.
(Image: Representation only)