Disorders of the Endocrine System

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  • 0:04 What Is the Endocrine System?
  • 0:50 Improper Hormone Production
  • 3:04 Endocrine Gland Tumors
  • 3:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Your endocrine system is an important part of your body because it produces and regulates hormones. When it doesn't work correctly, this can lead to serious problems with growth, mood, and more.

What Is the Endocrine System?

Have you ever wondered what your endocrine system does? It's actually pretty amazing! Your endocrine system, which is made up of eight major organs, such as the pancreas, thyroid, ovaries, and testes, is responsible for making hormones and sending them throughout your body. These hormones are little chemical messengers involved in growth and development, digestion, breathing, blood circulation in the body, body temperature regulation, and of course your mood, as well as reproduction.

As you can see, hormones are involved in a large part of your everyday life. So it's really important that these hormones are manufactured and distributed properly. When any part of your endocrine system isn't working correctly, you could experience some serious problems. Let's take a look at what might go wrong and how it could affect you.

Improper Hormone Production

One way that your endocrine system might be faulty is if it produces too little or too much of a given hormone. This leads to an imbalance of hormones throughout your body. Common examples of this are hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is when the thyroid gland produces too much of the thyroid hormones. Think 'hyper' as in 'overactive.' Hypothyroidism is just the opposite: too little thyroid hormone is produced. When your body has too much thyroid hormone, you might experience weight loss, sweating, and a rapid heart rate. With too little of these hormones, you could experience the opposite symptoms: fatigue, weight gain, and even depression.

Growth hormone is another hormone that, when present in the wrong amounts, can cause problems in your body. Too much growth hormone from the pituitary gland leads to a condition known as gigantism, which is just what it sounds like. The body grows too fast, leading to an abnormally-sized person. Too little growth hormone and you won't grow enough, a condition known as dwarfism.

By far one of the most common endocrine disorders in the U.S. is diabetes, which occurs when your blood sugar levels are too high. Blood sugar is regulated by your pancreas, which produces the hormone insulin. Insulin helps bring blood sugar down, but if you are diabetic you don't make enough insulin, leading to abnormally high blood sugar levels. Untreated, diabetes can lead to some really serious problems such as heart disease, stroke, blindness, and a loss of one or more of your limbs.

There are also conditions that arise from an improper balance of the sex hormones. Turner syndrome is when a girl partially or completely lacks female sex chromosomes. Because your sex chromosomes carry many genes in addition to those that deal with gender, this can lead to problems with growth, development, and heart and kidney problems.

Boys can have problems with their sex hormones as well. A condition known as Klinefelter syndrome is when boys have at least two X chromosomes, instead of the normal single X chromosome. This can lead to sterility, issues with growth and development, and poor coordination, speech, and reading skills.

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