About the Endocrine System
Endocrine Glands and Hormones
The Endocrine System Essentials
- The endocrine system is made up of a network of glands.
- These glands secrete hormones to regulate many bodily functions, including growth and metabolism.
- Endocrine diseases are common and usually occur when glands produce an incorrect amount of hormones.
Simply put, the endocrine system is a network of glands that secrete chemicals called hormones to help your body function properly. Hormones are chemical signals that coordinate a range of bodily functions.
The endocrine system works to regulate certain internal processes. (Note: endocrine shouldn’t be confused with exocrine. Exocrine glands, such as sweat and salivary glands, secrete externally and internally via ducts. Endocrine glands secrete hormones internally, using the bloodstream.)
The endocrine system helps control the following processes and systems:
- Growth and development
- Homeostasis (the internal balance of body systems)
- Metabolism (body energy levels)
- Response to stimuli (stress and/or injury)
The Endocrine Network
The endocrine system completes these tasks through its network of glands, which are small but highly important organs that produce, store, and secrete hormones.
The glands of the endocrine system are:
These glands produce different types of hormones that evoke a specific response in other cells, tissues, and/or organs located throughout the body. The hormones reach these faraway targets using the blood stream. Like the nervous system, the endocrine system is one of your body’s main communicators. But instead of using nerves to transmit information, the endocrine system uses blood vessels to deliver hormones to cells.
To ensure that everything runs smoothly (that is, your body functions as it should), certain processes must work properly:
- The endocrine glands must release the correct amount of hormones (if they release too much or too little, it is known as hormone imbalance).
- Your body also needs a strong blood supply to transport the hormones throughout the body.
- There must be enough receptors (which are where the hormones attach and do their work) at the target tissue.
- Those targets must be able to respond appropriately to the hormonal signal. The model here would be like primary hypothyroidism, where the pituitary produces TSH, the TSH is carried via the bloodstream to the thyroid, the thyroid has the appropriate receptors, but for whatever reason it isn’t able to effectively make or secrete thyroid hormone.
Endocrine diseases are common and happen even when one step in the process doesn’t work as it should. If you have an endocrine disease or disorder, you may consult a specialist known as an endocrinologist who will effectively diagnose and help treat your condition.