Everything You Need to Know About Endocrinology

If you’ve ever wondered about the practice of endocrinology, here’s what you can expect from your trusted endocrinologist.

In 1923, scientists Frederick Banting and John Macleod won the Nobel Peace Prize for discovering insulin, the hormone famous for regulating blood sugar.

This was one of the earliest discoveries in the field of endocrinology, the “branch of biology and medicine dealing with the endocrine system, its diseases, and its specific secretions known as hormones.”

Basically, endocrinologists in NYC are doctors that specialize in all things related to hormones and hormone glands. Endocrinologists diagnose and treat hormone problems, which can involve anything from reproductive health to weight loss.

Hormones are responsible for regulating respiration, metabolism, growth, reproduction, movement, and sensory perception. With so bodily functions to be responsible for, you can imagine how diverse complications that endocrinologists have to deal with can be.

In all, humans have more than 50 different hormones. Even if only a very small amount of a hormone exists in the body, it can still have a massive effect on the body’s health and function.

About the Endocrine System

The endocrine system comprises of several glands, placed in different locations around the body, which all release hormones to control bodily functions.

When a hormone leaves its gland, it will enter the bloodstream, where it is transported to organs and tissues all over the body.

The following are the major glands in the endocrine system that the endocrinologist on Manhattan’s upper east side has to be familiar with.

Adrenal Glands

The adrenal glands can be found just above the kidneys. Adrenal glands are divided into two distinct regions—the right gland is shaped like a triangle, and the left gland is shaped like a crescent.

Adrenal glands secrete the following hormones:

  • Corticosteroids: natural steroids involved with stress response, inflammation, and the immune system, among others.
  • Catecholamines: including epinephrine and norepinephrine—which release in response to stress.
  • Aldosterone: a hormone affecting kidney function.
  • Androgens: male sex hormones like testosterone.

Hypothalamus

This is the gland that controls such involuntary functions as respiration, appetite, heart rate, sleep, and temperature. It can be found on top of the brain stem, just below the thalamus.

The hypothalamus links together the nervous system with the endocrine system, using the pituitary gland that’s connected to it.

Ovaries and Testicles

In females, the ovaries are found on both sides of the uterus. They are responsible for producing the hormones progesterone and estrogen. These are the hormones that allow for sexual development, mensuration, and fertility.

In males, the testicles are inside the scrotum, just below the penis. They produce androgens, including testosterone. Androgens promote sexual development, from facial hair to sperm cell growth and libido.

Pancreas

The pancreas is located in the abdomen. It’s both a gland in the endocrine system and also a digestive organ. It produces the following hormones:

  • Insulin—which is integral for fat and carbohydrate metabolism.
  • Somatostatin—which controls endocrine and nervous system functions, as well as the secretion of several different hormones.
  • Glucagon—this hormone is a peptide, which increases blood glucose levels if it falls too low.
  • Pancreatic polypeptide—which helps to regulate the secretion of pancreas substances.

Parathyroid Glands

These are small glands in the neck, which produce the parathyroid hormone, responsible for calcium and phosphate levels in the blood. Only when these chemicals are kept at the appropriate levels can muscles and nerves function effectively and safely.

Pineal Gland

This small gland, found deep inside the brain, secretes melatonin, thus helping to control sleep patterns, as well as reproductive hormone levels.

Pituitary Gland

The pituitary gland is attached to the hypothalamus. It can be called the “main endocrine master gland,” because the hormones it secrets control the functions of all the other glands throughout the body. It also regulates physical growth and other primary bodily functions.

Thymus Gland

This gland is located underneath the breastbone (or sternum). T lymphocytes, which is a kind of immune cells, mature and multiply in the thymus early on in life. The gland shrinks after puberty.

The thymus gland holds an important role in immune system function, protecting against infection and disease.

Thyroid

The thyroid produces hormones that regulate blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature, and metabolism. It also controls the body’s reactions to the other hormones. It can be found below the Adam’s apple.

The two primary hormones produced by the thyroid are triiodothyronine and thyroxine. It uses iodine to formulate them.

With so many hormones, controlling so many aspects of the body’s function and development, you can see why even a little problem in the endocrine system can wreak havoc on one’s health.

Philip Rabito, MD

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