Endocrine problems are prevalent in modern society, and many people develop one or more of these conditions over the course of their lives. The most common endocrine problems include diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome, Addison’s disease, and the metabolic syndrome. Other hormonal disorders can include diseases of the pituitary gland, parathyroid glands, or the adrenal glands.
Perhaps the most common of the endocrine problems is diabetes mellitus. This condition develops due to a problem with the hormone insulin, which is secreted by the pancreas and is important in stimulating cells to collect glucose and store it as energy. Type II diabetes mellitus occurs when the body’s peripheral tissues are resistant to insulin, and as a result, the levels of glucose in the blood can reach high levels and cause problems. Like Type II diabetes mellitus, Type I is associated with high blood glucose levels, but the problem in these patients is a lack of production of insulin by the pancreas.
Two of the next most common endocrine problems are related to the thyroid. Patients with low levels of thyroid hormone production are said to have hypothyroidism. Symptoms caused by this hormonal disorder include lethargy, weight gain, constipation, depression, muscle pain, and slowed thinking. Having high levels of thyroid activity is called hyperthyroidism. Patients with this condition can have symptoms such as anxiety, elevated heart rate, weight loss, sweating, and shortness of breath.
Some other common endocrine problems involve the adrenal gland and its production of the hormone cortisol, a chemical compound important in regulating blood pressure, growth, and development. As with the thyroid disorders, adrenal problems can cause either low or high levels of cortisol production. Having high levels or cortisol production is indicative of Cushing’s syndrome, which is characterized by high blood pressure, headache, depression, obesity, and skin lesions. Low cortisol production indicates Addison’s disease, which can be associated with low blood pressure, weakness, fatigue, and darkening of the skin.
Many people consider a condition called "the metabolic syndrome" to be an endocrine problem. People with this syndrome suffer from obesity, high blood lipid levels, elevated blood pressure, and resistance to insulin. Having this condition puts patients at risk for heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. Risk factors for developing the metabolic syndrome include a history of family members having this disorder, a sedentary lifestyle, and a high-fat, high-calorie diet.
People can also develop a range of other endocrinologic problems. Some problems with infertility are considered to be caused by hormonal abnormalities. Osteoporosis, a disease that results in low bone density and an increased risk for bone fractures, is considered by many to be an endocrine problem. The parathyroid glands, which help regulate the amount of calcium in the blood, can become over or under active and cause symptoms. Dysregulation of other hormones produced by the pituitary gland and adrenal glands are rarer, but can result in life-threatening diseases.