Endocrine disorder

Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at November 1, 2016
StartDiseasesEndocrine disorder

Endocrine disorders occur when there is too much or too little hormone secretion in any of the organs that comprise the endocrine system. Disorders can occur in any of the endocrine glands in the body; sometimes the glands can excrete too much (hypersecretion) or too little (hyposecretion) of the individual gland's hormone. The endocrine system is comprised of the following organs:

Their function is to regulate growth, metabolism, reproduction, and sleep. When the hormone level of one or more of these glands is imbalanced, an endocrine disorder occurs. Sometimes, an endocrine dysfunction can be fatal or it can trigger a complication that will be fatal but these are usually extreme cases; most endocrine dysfunctions can be repaired, particularly when caught early.


Definition & Facts

An endocrine disorder is a disease of the endocrine glands. Each component of the endocrine system produces specialized hormones. These hormones send signals to other body systems to perform a specific function, such as appetite regulation, growth, breathing, and so forth. When one or more of the components releases too much or too little of their specialized hormone, an endocrine disorder occurs.

The most common endocrine dysfunctions affect the adrenal glands, the pancreas, the pituitary gland, and the thyroid gland. Disorders such as diabetes mellitus, osteoporosis, obesity, and various thyroid diseases can result.

The endocrine system is the information highway of the body, functioning similarly to the nervous Each component of the endocrine system secretes specialized hormones that have a function unique to them. Glands in the endocrine system have no ducts; hormones are released directly into the circulatory system.

The kidney, liver, stomach, and uterus are not part of the endocrine system but they participate in its function. The endocrine system is largely responsible for the onset of osteoporosis, which affects one in ten people, even though osteoporosis is a bone disease. Alcohol consumption has a profound and adverse effect on the endocrine system.

Symptoms & Complaints

Many people may have an endocrine disorder and be unaware of it, but regular checkups and blood tests can improve the chance for successful remediation. An endocrine disorder can influence the onset of an autoimmune disease such as Graves' disease and/or diabetes mellitus. 

Growth disorders and sexual dysfunction are common with endocrine disorders. Acromegaly, causes individuals to become extremely large while polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) causes hirsutism and obesity. Because there are so many glands involved, there are innumerable symptoms and complaints but one common thread in endocrine disorders is fatigue and muscle weakness.


Endocrine disorders occur when there is an imbalance in the hormone level and it can be caused by the failure of one gland to communicate to another; it can be genetic, such as congenital hypothroidism, it can occur as a result of an injury or infection, or as the result of a tumor on the endocrine gland. 

Usually, tumors on an endocrine gland are benign and do not metastasize. They can, however, interfere with the gland's ability to produce the correct amount of hormone.

Autoimmune disorders can cause endocrine disorders. These diseases can involve the body attacking its own issue, including the tissue of a gland, thereby disrupting its proper function.

Diagnosis & Tests

Blood tests and clinical urine tests will be necessary in order to determine the type of endocrine disorder the patient has and the treatment regimen that will be best.

The specific tests and diagnostic procedures used will depend on the gland being affected. However, the first test will be a thorough physical examination complete with urinalysis and blood work and possibly medical imaging tests. 

Depending on the results of the exam, additional tests may be ordered, examples of which include additional urine collection, a bone density test, corticotropin-releasing hormone, or CRH stimulation test, dexamethasone suppression test, glucose tolerance test, glucose sensor test, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) test, a fine-needle aspiration biopsy, and others.

Treatment & Therapy

Sometimes, surgery will be required to correct the problems caused by an endocrine disorder. Medication can be used. It depends on the gland(s) affected and the extent of the problem. If the secondary disorder, such as diabetes mellitus, responds well to diet and medication, then there is no need for surgery.

However, some thyroid disorders, such as Graves' disease, may require a more aggressive treatment, such as surgical removal of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy). Results of the blood and urine tests performed at the initial physical exam will determine the type(s) of approach necessary for successful treatment of an endocrine disorder.

Prevention & Prophylaxis

Since there are so many different types of endocrine disorders and so many secondary issues caused by an endocrine disorder, it may not be possible to prevent all of them. Certainly, proper self care is an excellent starting point. Maintaining a healthy weight, minimizing stress, eating healthy diet, and avoiding refined sugars and highly processed food will provide the body with the basic tools upon which to function at its best. 

Maintaining good hydration, and good physical and emotional health all contribute to a body that is maintaining homeostasis and functioning in a manner conducive to good health. Massage is also good for maintaining the body. Studies have shown that an hour-long massage encourages circulation of the blood, increases the performance of the immune system and the lymphatic system, and promotes good mental health.

Life will happen, and accidents, injury, and illness will take their toll on the body. However, by maintaining a healthy body and a healthy outlook the negative effect of these traumas can be substantially reduced and the likelihood of an endocrine disorder can be reduced.