ENDOCRINE DISORDERS

The endocrine system is a network of glands that produce and release hormones that help control many important body functions, including the body’s ability to change calories into energy that powers cells and organs. The endocrine system influences how your heart beats, how your bones and tissues grow, even your ability to make a baby. It plays a vital role in whether or not you develop diabetes, thyroid disease, growth disorders, sexual dysfunction, and a host of other hormone-related disorders.

Endocrine disorders are diseases related to the endocrine glands of the body. Modern treatment is generally quite effective for endocrine disorders, and severe consequences of endocrine dysfunction are rare. However, untreated endocrine disorders can have widespread complications throughout the body.

Common endocrine disorders include:

Diabetes mellitus

Symptoms of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:

  • Excessive thirst or hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Vision changes

Acromegaly (overproduction of growth hormones

Symptoms of acromegaly include:

  • Abnormally large lips, nose or tongue
  • Abnormally large or swollen hands or feet
  • Altered facial bone structure
  • Body and joint aches
  • Deep voice
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Headaches
  • Overgrowth of bone and cartilage and thickening of the skin
  • Sexual dysfunction, including decreased libido
  • Sleep apnea
  • Vision impairment

Addison’s disease (decreased production of hormones by the adrenal glands)

Common symptoms of Addison’s disease include:

  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Hyperpigmentation of the skin (bronze appearance)
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Low blood pressure (hypotension)
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Nausea, with or without vomiting
  • Salt cravings
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness (loss of strength)

Cushing’s syndrome (high cortisol levels for extended periods of time)

Symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome include:

  • Buffalo hump (fat between the shoulder blades)
  • Skin discoloration such as bruising
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Thinning and weakening of the bones (osteoporosis)
  • Frequent urination
  • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Obesity of the upper body
  • Rounded “moon“ face
  • Weakness (loss of strength)

Graves’ disease (type of hyperthyroidism resulting in excessive thyroid hormone production)

Common symptoms of Graves’ disease include:

  • Bulging eyes (Graves’ ophthalmopathy)
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland)
  • Heat intolerance
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Thick or red skin on the shins
  • Tremors
  • Unexplained weight loss

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (autoimmune disease resulting in hypothyroidism and low production of thyroid hormone)

Often, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is symptomless, but symptoms can include:

  • Cold intolerance
  • Constipation
  • Dry hair and loss of hair
  • Fatigue
  • Goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland)
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Weight gain

Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)

Common symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland)
  • Heat intolerance
  • Irritability and mood changes
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Tremors
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness (loss of strength)

Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:

  • Cold intolerance
  • Constipation
  • Decreased sweat production
  • Dry hair
  • Fatigue
  • Goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland)
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Swollen face
  • Unexplained weight gain

Prolactinoma (overproduction of prolactin by the pituitary gland)

Excess prolactin can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Loss of libido
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Unexplained milk production

DIAGNOSIS

If you have an endocrine disorder, your doctor may refer you to a specialist called an endocrinologist. An endocrinologist is specially trained in problems with the endocrine system.

The symptoms of an endocrine disorder vary widely and depend on the specific gland involved. However, most people with endocrine disease complain of fatigue and weakness.

Blood and urine tests to check your hormone levels can help your doctors determine if you have an endocrine disorder. Imaging tests may be done to help locate or pinpoint a nodule or tumor.

 

RECOMMENDED MEDICATIONS

Treatment of endocrine disorders can be complicated, as a change in one hormone level can throw off another. Your doctor or specialist may order routine blood work to check for problems or to determine if your medication or treatment plan needs to be adjusted.

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