Endocrinology Health Guide

The endocrine system is a complex collection of hormone-producing glands that control basic body functions such as metabolism, growth and sexual development. The amount of hormones produced by each gland is carefully balanced. Too much or too little of a certain hormone can have effects throughout the body and cause various endocrine disorders. Many of the hormones produced by the endocrine glands interact with each other to maintain balance.

The endocrine system consists of:

  • pituitary gland secretes hormones to stimulate the adrenals, thyroid, pigment-producing skin cells and gonads (ovaries and testes). Also secretes a growth hormone, an antidiuretic hormone, prolactin (a hormone which affects milk production after childbirth) and oxytocin (a hormone which plays a role in childbirth).
  • hypothalamus - secretes hormones that stimulate or suppress the release of hormones in the pituitary gland.
  • pancreas - secretes insulin and glucagon, which affect the body's absorption of glucose, the body's main source of energy.
  • adrenal cortex - secretes hydrocortisone, which affects metabolism. Also secretes androgen hormone and aldosterone, which affect blood pressure and saline balance.
  • thyroid gland - secretes thyroxin, triiodothyronine and calcitonin, which affect metabolism, body heat, and bone growth.
  • parathyroid glands - secretes a parathyroid hormone, which affects calcium levels in the blood.
  • gonads - the male and female reproductive glands (testes and ovaries). The testes secrete testosterone, which stimulate sperm production and other male characteristics. The ovaries secrete estrogen and progesterone, which affect many aspects of the female body, including menstrual cycles and pregnancy.

The exocrine glands actually secrete their substances through ducts to particular areas. Examples of exocrine glands include the salivary glands and the sweat glands. The endocrine glands, on the other hand, secrete the hormones they produce directly into the bloodstream. Most endocrine glands are controlled by trophic (stimulating) hormones secreted by the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland, in turn, is controlled by hormones secreted by the hypothalamus in the brain.

  • Glossary

    Endocrinology Health Guide Glossary
  • Adrenal Glands

    Adrenal glands, which are also called suprarenal glands, are small, triangular glands located on top of both kidneys. An adrenal gland is made of two parts: the outer region is called the adrenal cortex and the inner region is called the adrenal medulla.
  • Hypoglycemia

    Hypoglycemia is the condition of having a glucose (blood sugar) level that is too low to effectively fuel the body's blood cells. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body.
  • Pancreas

    The pancreas is an elongated, tapered organ located across the back of the abdomen, behind the stomach. The right side of the organ (called the head) is the widest part of the organ and lies in the curve of the duodenum, the first division of the small intestine.
  • Parathyroid Gland

    The parathyroid glands are two small, oval-shaped glands located adjacent to the two thyroid gland lobes in the neck.
  • Reproductive Glands

    Anatomy of the ovaries and testes.

  • Thyroid Gland

    The thyroid gland is located in the front of the neck, below the larynx (voice box). The small, two-inch gland consists of two lobes, one on each side of the windpipe, connected by tissue called the isthmus.

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