An endocrinologist is a doctor specializing in disorders of the endocrine system. They examine dysfunctions of internal secretion glands, such as the thyroid, ovaries, pancreas, and treat hormonal disorders caused by them. In short, what an endocrinologist deals with can be summarized in one word: HORMONES.
What are hormones?
Hormones are powerful chemical compounds with a significant impact on health. They activate many processes in the body, both positive and negative.
How powerful are hormones?
Again, one word can answer this – powerful. If a patient has a tumor on the ovary the size of a pinhead, producing male hormones, within a few weeks, she may resemble… a man. To stop this process, an endocrinologist intervenes.
How do hormones work?
All hormones are interconnected. This means that disturbances in the production of one of them can disrupt the entire hormonal system. To avoid such a scenario, hormonal balance is crucial.
Where do hormones come from?
The hypothalamus and pituitary gland manage all hormones – the king and queen of our endocrine system. As befits the rulers, this system resides in the center of our heads.
The pituitary gland is the size of a cherry, weighing only 0.5-0.7 grams. Despite its small size, it has immense power.
The hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary gland, enabling it to produce so-called stimulators for hormone production, such as TSH, FSH, LH, ACTH, GH, as well as hormones: PRL, LPH, MSH, ADH, and oxytocin.
These stimulators act on a specific endocrine gland (such as the thyroid, adrenal glands, ovaries, testes, pancreas), activating the secretion of hormones.
What does this look like in practice?
TSH stimulates the thyroid to produce fT3 and fT4 hormones
ACTH stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol, testosterone, DHEA-S, and androstenedione
FSH and LH stimulate the ovaries to produce estradiol and progesterone
LH stimulates the testes to produce testosterone
GH stimulates growth and body mass increase, additionally triggering insulin secretion by the pancreas
What hormones does the pituitary gland produce?
MSH stimulates skin pigmentation
ADH stimulates the kidneys, prevents water loss, and concentrates urine
PRL and oxytocin cause lactation
Oxytocin facilitates childbirth
LPH is responsible for fat tissue breakdown
Damage to the pituitary gland – what then?
When there is damage to the pituitary gland, e.g., due to a traffic accident or head injury, our hormone-producing glands will not function correctly, even if they are healthy. This can be likened to a functional car without gasoline. In such a situation, the patient must take hormone-balancing medications for life. Without them, their body will not function correctly.