Endocrine Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments (2024)

Written by Kelli Miller

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger,MD on August 19, 2021

The endocrine system is a network of glands that produce and release hormones that help control many important body functions, including the body's ability to change calories into energy that powers cells and organs. The endocrine system influences how your heart beats, how your bones and tissues grow, even your ability to make a baby. It plays a vital role in whether or not you develop diabetes, thyroid disease, growth disorders, sexual dysfunction, and a host of other hormone-related disorders.

Glands of the Endocrine System

Each gland of the endocrine system releases specific hormones into your bloodstream. These hormones travel through your blood to other cells and help control or coordinate many body processes.

Endocrine glands include:

  • Adrenal glands: Two glands that sit on top of the kidneys that release the hormone cortisol.
  • Hypothalamus: A part of the lower middle brain that tells the pituitary gland when to release hormones.
  • Ovaries: The female reproductive organs that release eggs and produce sex hormones.
  • Islet cells in the pancreas: Cells in the pancreas control the release of the hormones insulin and glucagon.
  • Parathyroid: Four tiny glands in the neck that play a role in bone development.
  • Pineal gland: A gland found near the center of the brain that may be linked to sleep patterns.
  • Pituitary gland: A gland found at the base of brain behind the sinuses. It is often called the "master gland" because it influences many other glands, especially the thyroid. Problems with the pituitary gland can affect bone growth, a woman's menstrual cycles, and the release of breast milk.
  • Testes: The male reproductive glands that produce sperm and sex hormones.
  • Thymus: A gland in the upper chest that helps develop the body's immune system early in life.
  • Thyroid: A butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck that controls metabolism.

Even the slightest hiccup with the function of one or more of these glands can throw off the delicate balance of hormones in your body and lead to an endocrine disorder, or endocrine disease.

Causes of Endocrine Disorders

Endocrine disorders are typically grouped into two categories:

  • Endocrine disease that results when a gland produces too much or too little of an endocrine hormone, called a hormone imbalance.
  • Endocrine disease due to the development of lesions (such as nodules or tumors) in the endocrine system, which may or may not affect hormone levels.

The endocrine's feedback system helps control the balance of hormones in the bloodstream. If your body has too much or too little of a certain hormone, the feedback system signals the proper gland or glands to correct the problem. A hormone imbalance may occur if this feedback system has trouble keeping the right level of hormones in the bloodstream, or if your body doesn't clear them out of the bloodstream properly.

Increased or decreased levels of endocrine hormone may be caused by:

  • A problem with the endocrine feedback system
  • Disease
  • Failure of a gland to stimulate another gland to release hormones (for example, a problem with the hypothalamus can disrupt hormone production in the pituitary gland)
  • A genetic disorder, such as multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) or congenital hypothyroidism
  • Infection
  • Injury to an endocrine gland
  • Tumor of an endocrine gland

Most endocrine tumors and nodules (lumps) are noncancerous. They usually do not spread to other parts of the body. However, a tumor or nodule on the gland may interfere with the gland's hormone production.

Types of Endocrine Disorders

There are many different types of endocrine disorders. Diabetes is the most common endocrine disorder diagnosed in the U.S.

Other endocrine disorders include:

Adrenal insufficiency. The adrenal gland releases too little of the hormone cortisol and sometimes, aldosterone. Symptoms include fatigue, stomach upset, dehydration, and skin changes. Addison's disease is a type of adrenal insufficiency.

Cushing's disease. Overproduction of a pituitary gland hormone leads to an overactive adrenal gland. A similar condition called Cushing's syndrome may occur in people, particularly children, who take high doses of corticosteroid medications.

Gigantism (acromegaly) and other growth hormone problems. If the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone, a child's bones and body parts may grow abnormally fast. If growth hormone levels are too low, a child can stop growing in height.

Hyperthyroidism. The thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, leading to weight loss, fast heart rate, sweating, and nervousness. The most common cause for an overactive thyroid is an autoimmune disorder called Grave's disease.

Hypothyroidism. The thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone, leading to fatigue, constipation, dry skin, and depression. The underactive gland can cause slowed development in children. Some types of hypothyroidism are present at birth.

Hypopituitarism. The pituitary gland releases little or no hormones. It may be caused by a number of different diseases. Women with this condition may stop getting their periods.

Multiple endocrine neoplasia I and II (MEN I and MEN II). These rare, genetic conditions are passed down through families. They cause tumors of the parathyroid, adrenal, and thyroid glands, leading to overproduction of hormones.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Overproduction of androgens interfere with the development of eggs and their release from the female ovaries. PCOS is a leading cause of infertility.

Precocious puberty. Abnormally early puberty that occurs when glands tell the body to release sex hormones too soon in life.

Testing for Endocrine Disorders

If you have an endocrine disorder, your doctor may refer you to a specialist called an endocrinologist. An endocrinologist is specially trained in problems with the endocrine system.

The symptoms of an endocrine disorder vary widely and depend on the specific gland involved. However, most people with endocrine disease complain of fatigue and weakness.

Blood and urine tests to check your hormone levels can help your doctors determine if you have an endocrine disorder. Imaging tests may be done to help locate or pinpoint a nodule or tumor.

Treatment of endocrine disorders can be complicated, as a change in one hormone level can throw off another. Your doctor or specialist may order routine blood work to check for problems or to determine if your medication or treatment plan needs to be adjusted.

Endocrine Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments (2024)


What causes endocrine disorders? ›

Endocrine conditions can be due to three main causes: 1) Underproduction of a certain hormone; 2) Overproduction of a certain hormone; 3) A malfunction in the production line of a hormone or in its ability to function correctly.

What is the most common of all endocrine disorders? ›

In the United States, the most common endocrine disease is diabetes. There are many others. They are usually treated by controlling how much hormone your body makes. Hormone supplements can help if the problem is too little of a hormone.

What are the signs and symptoms of endocrine disorders? ›

Symptoms of Endocrine Disorders
  • Fatigue.
  • Changes in vision.
  • Excessive hunger and thirst.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Constant urination.
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss.
Apr 7, 2022

How do you treat endocrine disorders? ›

Endocrine Disease Treatments
  1. Hormone Therapy. You take supplements to restore levels of certain hormones. ...
  2. Medications. We may prescribe medications to help your body stop producing certain hormones or produce them at a slower rate. ...
  3. Surgery.

What is the most common female endocrine disorder? ›

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrinopathy among women of reproductive age, impacting 5-10% of premenopausal American women. During the reproductive years, women with PCOS seek medical attention related to infertility, hirsutism, and acne.

What are the 7 hormones of the endocrine system? ›

Pituitary gland
  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH or corticotropin).
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
  • Growth hormone (GH).
  • Luteinizing hormone (LH).
  • Prolactin.
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
Feb 23, 2022

Can endocrine disorders be cured? ›

Pituitary tumors and tumors of the adrenal glands are often surgically curable. Cancers of the testes are often curable with surgery, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Many common endocrine problems cannot be cured but can be effectively treated with medication and/or lifestyle change.

Can stress cause endocrine disorders? ›

Some of these stressful responses can lead to endocrine disorders like Graves' disease, gonadal dysfunction, psychosexual dwarfism and obesity. Stress can also alter the clinical status of many preexisting endocrine disorders such as precipitation of adrenal crisis and thyroid storm.

How do you test for endocrine disorders? ›

These tests and tools are used to diagnose and evaluate endocrine disorders:
  1. CT scan.
  2. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA)
  3. Nuclear medicine studies.
  4. Parathyroid ultrasound.
  5. Post-thyroidectomy ultrasound.
  6. Thyroglobulin stimulation studies.
  7. Thyroid ultrasound.
  8. Ultrasound-guided fine needle aspiration.

What is the most common disease treated by an endocrinologist? ›

Diabetes is one of the most common metabolic conditions. An endocrinologist can specialize in the treatment of different kinds of diabetes and other metabolic conditions such as obesity. Thyroid disease: Many conditions can affect your thyroid, the butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your neck.

What are the endocrine causes of anxiety? ›

The DSM-IV defines the most common endocrinological conditions associated with anxiety states as hyper- and hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, pheochromocytoma, and hyperadrenocorticism.

What are rare endocrine disorders? ›

Some of the rare endocrine tumors that affect children, teens, and young adults are:
  • Adrenocortical carcinoma.
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer.
  • Carcinoid tumor.
  • Medullary thyroid cancer.
  • Paraganglioma.
  • Pheochromocytoma.

What blood tests check endocrine system? ›

Blood tests for luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) can help to detect female hormonal issues. Tests for total testosterone can pinpoint male hormonal issues.

Are endocrine disorders life threatening? ›

Endocrine disorders, if untreated, can lead to life-threatening conditions. The patient must receive immediate medical attention if the symptoms persist for more than three days. Some of the risk factors associated with endocrine disorders include: A low heart rate may lead to heart failure.

What are the 2 major types of endocrine disorder? ›

Thyroid Disorders
  • Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is an underactive thyroid gland, and the thyroid gland can't make enough thyroid hormone to keep the body running normally. ...
  • Hyperthyroidism: Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland is overactive and makes excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.

Can endocrine problems cause pain? ›

Muscle weakness, pain, and stiffness are common symptoms of endocrine disorders3). Systemic characteristic symptoms of specific endocrine disorders usually precede the onset of weakness, but muscle weakness may be the initial symptom3).

What happens when you have endocrine disorder? ›

Endocrine disorders occur when one or more parts of the system do not work correctly. This typically causes high or low levels of certain hormones or results in the body not responding correctly to certain hormones. This can lead to problems around the body.

What foods heal the endocrine system? ›

Fruits and Vegetables

Calcium, vitamin C, and B vitamins are important to the formation and function of hormones. Leafy greens like kale, spinach, broccoli, turnip greens, mustard greens, and asparagus are always a good place to find vitamins and minerals.

What medications are used to treat endocrine disorders? ›

Metabolic & Endocrine
  • Anabolic Steroids.
  • Androgens.
  • Antiandrogens.
  • Antidiabetics, Alpha-Glucosidase Inhibitors.
  • Antidiabetics, Amylinomimetics.
  • Antidiabetics, Biguanides.
  • Antidiabetics, Biguanides/Dipeptyl Peptidase-IV Inhibitors.
  • Antidiabetics, Biguanides/Meglitinides.

What are autoimmune endocrine diseases? ›

Autoimmune endocrine diseases are serious disorders that utilize immense health care resources and cause tremendous disability. They include type 1 diabetes mellitus, thyroiditis, Graves disease, Addison disease, and polyglandular syndromes.

What will an endocrinologist do on a first visit? ›

At your first appointment, your endocrinologist will ask about your symptoms, medications, health habits, and family history of hormone-related problems. Your medical records will be reviewed, and your referring doctor will be consulted.

When should a woman see an endocrinologist? ›

Conditions and test results that are among the topreasons to see an endocrinologist include: Abnormal blood sugar levels, or symptoms such as excessive thirst, fatigue, weight gain or blurry vision: these are all symptoms of problems with insulin.

What hormones cause inflammation and pain in the body? ›

Prostaglandins act as signals to control several different processes depending on the part of the body in which they are made. Prostaglandins are made at sites of tissue damage or infection, where they cause inflammation, pain and fever as part of the healing process.

What are the 8 main endocrine organs of the body? ›

Many glands make up the endocrine system. The hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and pineal gland are in your brain. The thyroid and parathyroid glands are in your neck. The thymus is between your lungs, the adrenals are on top of your kidneys, and the pancreas is behind your stomach.

What are the 8 organs of the endocrine system? ›

The endocrine system includes the hypothalamus, pineal gland, pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, thymus, adrenal glands, and pancreas. It also includes the testes in males and the ovaries and placenta (during pregnancy) in females. Glands and organs of the endocrine system.

Is anxiety an endocrine disorder? ›

Now, a new study suggests that anxiety disorders may stem, at least in part, from malfunctions in the body's endocrine system. The results demonstrate that inflammation of the thyroid gland is associated with anxiety disorders, suggesting new avenues of treatment.

Does endocrine disorder cause fatigue? ›

Endocrine dysfunction is a common etiology of fatigue. In fact, thyroid function is usually one of the first explanations on the list of possible diagnoses. The symptoms associated with endocrinopathies are frequently "nonspecific," and psychiatric disease or psychological disorders need to be differentiated.

Does anxiety affect endocrine system? ›

Stress affects all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, nervous, and reproductive systems. Our bodies are well equipped to handle stress in small doses, but when that stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can have serious effects on your body.

How do you treat endocrine disorders naturally? ›

10 Natural Ways to Balance Your Hormones
  1. Eat enough protein at every meal. ...
  2. Engage in regular exercise. ...
  3. Maintain a moderate weight. ...
  4. Take care of your gut health. ...
  5. Lower your sugar intake. ...
  6. Try stress reduction techniques. ...
  7. Consume healthy fats. ...
  8. Get consistent, high quality sleep.

What symptoms would send you to an endocrinologist? ›

If you have these conditions or any of the following symptoms, an endocrinologist can help.
  • Fatigue.
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss.
  • Anxiety or depression.
  • New or increased hair growth.
  • Changes in menstrual periods.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Feeling cold.
  • Hot flashes.
Nov 6, 2020

What symptoms do endocrinologists treat? ›

Endocrinologists are qualified to diagnose and treat conditions like diabetes, thyroid diseases, infertility, growth issues, metabolic disorders, osteoporosis, some cancers, and disorders in the hormone-producing adrenal glands and pituitary glands.

What symptoms should I tell my endocrinologist? ›

Signs and symptoms that your diabetes isn't well-controlled and may benefit from the expertise of an endocrinologist include:
  • tingling in your hands and feet from nerve damage.
  • frequent episodes of low or high blood sugar levels.
  • weight changes.
  • vision problems.
  • kidney problems.

Which gland is responsible for anxiety? ›

It Starts With Your Adrenal Gland

When you have anxiety, your brain sends messengers to your adrenal gland to release epinephrine (adrenaline) into your body. That adrenaline starts preparing your body so that it can react to danger by: Increasing heart rate. Constricting blood vessels.

What endocrine gland is most affected by stress? ›

When it comes to the body's stress response, the adrenal glands are the stars of the show.

What hormone affects anxiety? ›

The primary hormone related to anxiety is cortisol. You might have heard people mention cortisol before, referring to it as the “stress” hormone. This is because cortisol levels are elevated during prolonged periods of stress.

What are the 3 major organs of the endocrine system? ›

While many parts of the body make hormones, the major glands that make up the endocrine system are the: hypothalamus. pituitary. thyroid.

What are some rare endocrine disorders? ›

Some of the rare endocrine tumors that affect children, teens, and young adults are:
  • Adrenocortical carcinoma.
  • Anaplastic thyroid cancer.
  • Carcinoid tumor.
  • Medullary thyroid cancer.
  • Paraganglioma.
  • Pheochromocytoma.

How do you fix your endocrine system? ›

How to Naturally Balance Your Hormones
  1. Get enough protein. Proteins provide amino acids that your body cannot make on its own and are needed to produce peptide hormones. ...
  2. Exercise regularly. ...
  3. Maintain a moderate weight. ...
  4. Watch your gut health. ...
  5. Lower sugar intake. ...
  6. Reduce stress. ...
  7. Get enough sleep. ...
  8. Eat healthy fats.

What are the 7 hormones? ›

Pituitary gland
  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH or corticotropin).
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
  • Growth hormone (GH).
  • Luteinizing hormone (LH).
  • Prolactin.
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).
Feb 23, 2022

How does an endocrinologist examine you? ›

They will examine your skin, hair, mouth, and teeth as hormone-related disorders can affect these areas. Additionally, they may order blood work or urinalysis, order a biopsy, or order imaging tests such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging.

Can endocrine problems cause anxiety? ›

For example, patients with hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can experience erratic and unpredictable mental states. Commonly reported are anxiety, brain fog, mania, lethargy, depressive mood, and confusion. Dr. Rice also explains that the adrenal glands help to regulate our internal stress response.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Gov. Deandrea McKenzie

Last Updated:

Views: 5988

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (46 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Gov. Deandrea McKenzie

Birthday: 2001-01-17

Address: Suite 769 2454 Marsha Coves, Debbieton, MS 95002

Phone: +813077629322

Job: Real-Estate Executive

Hobby: Archery, Metal detecting, Kitesurfing, Genealogy, Kitesurfing, Calligraphy, Roller skating

Introduction: My name is Gov. Deandrea McKenzie, I am a spotless, clean, glamorous, sparkling, adventurous, nice, brainy person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.