Hormones And Endocrine System

There are many different reasons for endocrine disorders, which lead to the production of a particular hormone in excess or in very little amount. Some of these reasons are inherited, while many others may be due to autoimmune disease (counting a number of diabetes mellitus forms), cancer, injury and even use of specific medications.

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Often physicians recommend the use of natural hormone formulations or their man-made versions to deal with the deficiency of the particular hormone in the body. Occasionally, they also prescribe medications to promote production of hormones in the endocrine gland, for instance anti-diabetic medications that are taken orally. In case, the production of hormones in the endocrine gland is excessive, treatment using medications may possibly decrease the gland's activity.

In fact, hormones as well as related medicines are also employed for treating many other health conditions. For instance, corticosteroids are associated with the adrenal hormones and they are employed to alleviate inflammation as well as to restrain the activity of the immune system. In addition, sex hormones are used for treating many different forms of cancers. Female sex hormones are used in the form of contraceptives as well as employed to cure menstrual problems.

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Corticosteroids

There are two adrenal glands in our body, each located on top of both kidneys. The adrenal glands produce hormones that control various functions of the body. The outer part of both the adrenal glands produce a group of hormones called the corticosteroids. These hormones are important for the regulation of an assortment of body functions.

The pituitary gland controls the release of the corticosteroids. The effect of these hormones can be classified into two major types - glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid. When we talk about the glucocorticoid effects of corticosteroids we refer to the utility of these hormones in sustaining the normal sugar levels in the bloodstream as well as their role in promoting recuperation from stress and any injury. On the other hand, the foremost mineralocorticoid effect involves sustaining the balance of water and different mineral salts in the body. When these substances are present in the body in excessive amounts, corticosteroids help to decrease inflammation and, at the same time, hold back allergic reactions as well as the activities of the immune system.

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Corticosteroid medications are usually referred to as steroids. These medications either have their roots in naturally occurring corticosteroid hormones or are man-made variations of the natural corticosteroids. These hormones are entirely different from another hormone group known as the anabolic steroids. While all corticosteroids more or less have the same actions, their relative strength as well as period of action may vary. In addition, the potency of mineralocorticoid effects may also differ.

When used in elevated doses, corticosteroid medications help to lessen inflammation by means of obstructing the activities of a type of chemicals known as prostaglandins, which work by activating the inflammatory reactions. Moreover, prostaglandins also work to slow down the immune system, albeit temporarily, by decreasing the actions of specific variety of white blood cells.

It has been noticed that the use of corticosteroid medications or steroids often improve the symptoms remarkably. When used systemically, these medications may also have an effect on the brain and generate an intense feeling of well-being. In some people, use of corticosteroid medications may also result in an euphoric sensation.

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Corticosteroid medications seldom cause commonly bothersome side effects when used for a short course. Nevertheless, using these medications for a prolonged period of time and in elevated doses may pose some serious health hazards. When taken in small doses and orally to treat Addison's disease, corticosteroid medications have very few adverse effects. The risks associated with these drugs are subject to the particular medication used and the period for which the treatment with the medication continues.

Corticosteroid medications having potent mineralocorticoid effects, such as hydrocortisone, may result in excessive water retention by the body, swelling (especially the ankles) and also raise the blood pressure. As the use of corticosteroids diminishes the actions of insulin, people suffering from diabetes may find this medication troublesome. What is concerning is that people who are susceptible to diabetes may develop the condition after using these medications. Moreover, corticosteroids may also cause peptic ulcers in predisposed individuals.

As corticosteroid medications restrain or hold back the functioning of the immune system, they often augment the vulnerability to developing infections. Besides, these medications also repress symptoms related to infectious diseases. When treatment with corticosteroids continues for a prolonged period, it may result in various adverse effects, some of them serious. Therefore, physicians generally avoid prescribing corticosteroid drugs for long-term use, especially in children, as using these medications for a long duration may impede their normal growth.

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Using corticosteroids for prolonged periods has a negative effect on the body's ability to produce corticosteroid hormones, as a result of which our body eventually produces less amounts of this natural hormone. Therefore, it is advisable that the medications should be gradually withdrawn after a few weeks with a view to enable the body to adjust itself to the changes brought about due to corticosteroid use. However, never stop taking these medications all of a sudden. If you discontinue corticosteroids abruptly, you may collapse owing to the absence of corticosteroid hormones in your body.

It is advisable that people who have been taking corticosteroid medications orally for more than a month should always have a warning card with them at least for two years after discontinuing the medicament. This is important because in the event of meeting with an accident, these people might require additional hydrocortisone to reinforce their resistances against shock quickly.

Medicaments used in diabetes

Most of the energy obtained by our body is from glucose. In the intestine, this simple sugar form is metabolized from starch as well as other forms of sugar and subsequently taken up by the bloodstream. The pancreas produces a hormone called insulin, which allows the tissues of the body to assimilate sugar from the bloodstream and they either use it up for different functions or store it for use when needed. The pancreas of people enduring diabetes mellitus (also known as sugar diabetes) does not produce sufficient insulin. As a result, the body tissues are able to take up very small amount of glucose from the bloodstream and the level of glucose continues to rise in the blood to anomalous levels. In medical terms, this condition is called hyperglycemia.

Type-1 diabetes: Diabetes mellitus is classified under two groups. The first type is called insulin-dependent diabetes or type 1 diabetes, which is the more severe of the two groups of the disease. Generally, this condition initially occurs in individuals below the age of 35 years. It can also occur in people in the age group of 10 years to 16 years. As the cells in the pancreas that secrete insulin are destroyed, this condition progresses very fast. It is assumed that a particular virus triggers antibodies to attack the insulin secreting cells in the pancreas, resulting in their annihilation. In such situations, the production of insulin in the pancreas decreases rapidly, giving rise to the symptoms associated with hyperglycemia, such a thirst, weight loss, lethargy, augmented urination and a general feeling of illness. Lack of timely and appropriate treatment may first lead to coma and subsequently death of the patient.

Type-2 diabetes: The second type of diabetes mellitus is known as non-insulin dependent diabetes or type 2 diabetes. This health disorder occurs gradually and mostly in individuals who are over 40 years old. This condition is particularly widespread in obese people, who consume excessive amounts of foods containing sugar. Type 2 diabetes may also occur due to chronic pancreatitis. It is also common in women using oral contraceptives and people who use or have used corticosteroids medications, especially in elevated doses and for a prolonged period. The pancreas of people enduring this condition does produce insulin, but it is not adequate to fulfill the requirements of the body.

A change of diet is essential for treating both types of diabetes. The diet of people enduring these conditions should contain minimum sugar or sugary foods. In the case of obese people with type 2 diabetes, a reduction in sugar intake and exercises aimed at losing surplus body weight may help to reduce the body's requirement for insulin to satisfactory levels. If type 2 diabetics are able to achieve this, they might possibly not require any medical treatment, especially if the condition has been detected in the initial stages. Nevertheless, in addition to reducing sugar consumption and losing extra body weight, many people enduring type 2 diabetes and all who are suffering from type 1 diabetes do need some form of treatment using medications. In such cases, physicians may recommend two forms of treatments - insulin injection and anti-diabetic medications, such as metformin and sulfonylurea.

Using sulfonylurea oral anti-diabetic medications stimulate the pancreas to secrete insulin and also enables the insulin to work more effectively inside the body tissues and cells. Hence, these medications are only useful when there is some active insulin producing cells in the patient's pancreas. Insulin injection works as a substitute for natural hormone, which is absent in diabetes mellitus.

When the insulin level in the blood stream is increased, both insulin and other medications encourage the absorption of glucose by the body tissues from the blood and also facilitate in preventing any excessive build up of glucose in the bloodstream. Insulin cannot be taken orally, as it is metabolized in the digestive tract even before it can arrive in the bloodstream. Hence, it is necessary to administer insulin injections on a regular basis, especially to those enduring insulin-dependent or type-1 diabetes.

Use of anti-diabetic medications provides rapid relief from the symptoms associated with diabetes mellitus. When these medications are taken together with the necessary dietary measures, they generally enable a patient to lead a completely normal as well as healthy life. Controlling the glucose levels in the bloodstream successfully facilitates in diminishing the long-term health hazards associated with diabetes mellitus.

The body's requirement for glucose as well as insulin is not constant, but varies depending on its activities and also the pace at which our body uses up energy. Therefore, it is not only difficult to determine a standard dose of insulin for any particular individual that will fulfill all his/ her requirements. Moreover, the requirement for glucose and insulin may also vary from one diabetic to another depending on their body weight, activities, dietary habits and the amount of energy they burn up daily. Provided the dose of insulin is very low, an individual may develop hyperglycemia symptoms. Some of the symptoms of hypoglycaemia include heavy perspiration, light-headedness and giddiness.

Treatment with insulin is very individualized. In other words, the dosage of insulin is determined after considering the specific requirements of an individual. The dosage of insulin is determined after taking the individual's calorie intake as well as his/ her exercise levels into consideration. In addition, it is also vital for the individuals to always strictly follow the diet recommended by their physician.

Traditionally, insulin was extracted from the pancreas of cattle and pigs. However, use of insulin derived from animal sources may lead to allergic reactions in sensitive people. They may develop a skin rash at the place where the insulin injection is administered, while the effectiveness of the medication may also be diminished. Currently, we can avail human insulin, which is made by means of genetic engineering or by mutating pork insulin and most physicians now prescribe human insulin rather than the traditional ones. It is important that you do not take insulin injection as the same site, as it is likely to agitate the layer of fat underneath the skin resulting in dimpling or a swelling at the place. Hence, it is advisable that you should keep changing the injection site regularly to avoid this problem.

Treatment with anti-diabetic medication is associated with a number of risks. Among the serious hazards, these medications may cause the glucose level in the bloodstream to drop to an extremely low level. Generally, this happens when the diabetic does not consumed sufficient food, especially when a person taking insulin injections misses a regular snack or meal. It may also occur if the diabetic patient taking insulin undertakes any unaccustomed work-outs. In such cases, the patient may become unconscious unless counter-balancing actions are initiated. Moreover, although rare, but drawn out hypoglycaemia may also lead to seizures or even cause brain damage.

It is essential for diabetics to always have candy or glucose tablets with them, which they can take immediately whenever there is a warning symptom related to hypoglycaemia. In addition, it is also advisable that people taking insulin injections should always carry glucagon, a medication that works to augment the glucose levels in the bloodstream rapidly by obstructing the actions of insulin. In case they are carrying glucagon, they also ought to carry the necessary instruction in case they lose consciousness and others have to use the medication on them.

Since work-outs augment the body's glucose requirements, people should intake additional glucose prior to participating in any unfamiliar physical activity. It is also important to note that diabetics suffering from serious ailments also require additional insulin and, hence, it may be necessary to increase their dosage of insulin till they recuperate.

If any woman taking sulfonylurea medications desires to conceive, it is important for her to talk to her physician about the medications she is using to treat diabetes before becoming pregnant, as these drugs have the potential to irritate the placenta, thereby having a negative effect on the developing fetus. It is advisable that such women should temporarily change their treatment and use insulin injections till the birth of the child.

Different forms of insulin preparations are available in the market these days and the potency of each differs. Therefore, it is important that you ensure that you get the precise type of insulin when you renew your prescription every time. This is vital because insulin dosage is customized depending on various aspects of an individual. People using insulin will receive an identification card from their physician mentioning the precise insulin type and the dosage they are using.

Medicaments for thyroid disorders

Thyroid disorders lead to metabolism problems. This is because this gland, present in the neck, makes hormones that are responsible for regulating the metabolic process. In children, thyroid hormones are also necessary for normal physical as well as mental growth. In addition, the thyroid gland makes calcitonin, a hormone that helps to maintain the normal balance of calcium in the body.

Often the thyroid gland may even become hyper or uncontrollable, thereby producing too much hormones, which leads to a condition called thyrotoxicosis or hyperthyroidism. Occasionally, the thyroid gland may even turn out to be under active and produce inadequate hormones. This condition is known as hypothyroidism.

Medicaments for thyrotoxicosis

Anti-thyroid medicines work to decrease thyroid hormone production, thereby bringing it down to the regular levels. It may take anything between four and six weeks for these medications to produce the desired effects. This is primarily because the thyroid gland is practically a storehouse of hormones, whose levels are depleted gradually. Hence, your physician may prescribe a beta blocker to regulate the symptoms at the start of the treatment.

Generally, treatment with anti-thyroid medications begins with an elevated dose with a view to improve the symptoms rapidly. Subsequently, the dosage of the medication is decreased gradually, subject to the response of the patient. While some people recuperate totally after treatment with one course, the risks of the symptoms remain, particularly in children. When this occurs it may necessitate further treatment. However, it is important to note that treatment with anti-thyroid medications is unlikely to bring about any improvement in exophthalmos. Nevertheless, these medications may help the condition from deteriorating further. Your physician may prescribe a corticosteroid to alleviate this condition. Sometimes, the patient may even require undergoing surgery.

In the initial stages of treatment, giving an elevated dosage of anti-thyroid medication may sometime cause undesirable side effects like headache, nausea or even skin rashes. What is worse is that occasionally the use of these medications may lower the count of white blood cells, thereby enhancing the risks of infections and resulting in sore throats and persistent fevers. If you or anyone close to you is suffering from such conditions, it is important to check with a physician right away. Occasionally, physicians may also use radioactive iodine to treat hyperthyroidism. Generally, it is advisable that the patient undergoes surgery to cure the problem.

Medicaments for hypothyroidism

Usually, hypothyroidism is a permanent health disorder and it requires treatment with man-made hormone preparations throughout one's life. In most cases, these preparations are used orally, but sometimes they may also be used in an injection form making use of a nasogastric tube. The preparations are given as injections to people whose thyroid hormone levels have fallen so much that they lose consciousness.

In fact, physician check babies regularly after their birth to see if they are suffering from thyroid deficiency. This is vital because low levels of thyroid hormone in infants may lead to cretinism - a condition wherein there is a permanent physical and mental retardation. In case they detect that the level of thyroid hormone is low in an infant, the physicians will immediately inject a thyroid medication and also administer it at regular intermissions. Treating the problem promptly will not only help to restore the normal levels of thyroid hormone, but also ensure the normal development of the baby.

Generally, thyroid medications do not cause any undesirable side effects. This is primarily because these medications are just providing us with a substance, which would otherwise be produced by our body. Nevertheless, taking these medications in excessive doses may lead to symptoms related to thyrotoxicosis.

People taking thyroid medications are required to have their blood examined at regular intervals to ensure that they are taking the appropriate dosage. Normally, your physician will begin your treatment with a small dose of thyroid medications and gradually increase it to the appropriate dosage. Any abrupt increase in the levels of hormones may put unwanted stress on your heart. Therefore, additional care is taken by the physicians while prescribing thyroid medications, especially for aged people and those who are enduring high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart problems. Your physician may also prescribe a beta blocker along with thyroid medications with a view to lessen the negative effects of the medicament on your heart.

Medicaments for pituitary disorders

The pituitary gland is responsible for regulating many vital body functions, such as physical development, metabolism, reproductive function and sexual development. Located at the bottom of the brain, this gland produces hormones, many of which work obliquely by invigorating different other glands like the adrenal gland, thyroid gland, testicles, ovaries to produce and release their respective hormones.

Too much of pituitary hormone or absence of it may lead to serious consequences. The nature of these effects is largely subject to the hormone concerned. Sometimes a pituitary tumour may result in anomalous levels of a specific hormone. This tumour may be treated surgically. In many other instances, medicines may be employed for treating hormonal imbalances.

It is possible to treat some of the more widespread pituitary disorders; basically those entail growth hormones, with medications. Some of these hormones include adrenal hormones, anti-diuretic hormones, gonadotropins and prolactin. Absence of corticotrophin often results in production of insufficient adrenal hormones. In such situations, corticosteroid medications are used to treat the disorders.

Medicaments for growth hormone disorders

Somatropin or growth hormone is the main hormone necessary for ensuring usual growth in children as well as teenagers. Absence of growth hormone or somatropin harms the normal growth during childhood as well as adolescence. This condition is called pituitary dwarfism. In fact, physicians will only administer growth hormones after they are satisfied with the results of tests that indicate that a child or teenager's growth is being hampered or they are enduring pituitary dwarfism owing to the absence of somatropin. Provided the treatment is started early, taking growth hormone injections on a regular basis till the person enters adulthood will help to ensure normal growth as well as development.

It is only occasionally that the pituitary gland makes too much growth hormone. However, when this occurs, it may lead to pituitary gigantism in children. In the case of adults, this disorder may cause acromegaly, a type of deformity. Generally, acromegaly is caused by pituitary tumour and it can be distinguished by thickening of the face, skull, hands and feet. It may also result in a number of internal organs becoming enlarged.

While it is not possible to cure the above mentioned conditions, using medications to lessen growth hormone production by the pituitary gland may, to some extent, halt gigantism and also reverse some of the deformities caused by acromegaly. To achieve this, it is necessary to destroy some portion of the pituitary gland by using radiation therapy or by means of surgery. In addition, physicians also prescribe a medication called bromocriptine, which helps to decrease the levels of growth hormone.

Medicaments for diabetes insipidus

ADH or anti-diuretic hormones, also referred to as vasopressin, affect the kidneys by regulating the quantity of water present and returning the excess water to the bloodstream. Generally, any kind of damage to the pituitary gland may result in an absence of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH) and this can, in turn, lead to diabetes insipidus. This is a rare condition, wherein the kidneys are unable to hold water and large amounts of water passes out of the body in the form of urine. Constant thirst and urinating large volumes of water are two major symptoms of this rare condition.

Anti-diuretic hormones called vasopressin or desmopressin are used to treat diabetes insipidus. While vasopressin is administered in the form of an injection, desmopressin is actually a man-made vasopressin variety, which is inhaled by the patient using a nasal spray. If the condition of the disease is mild, it may be treated using clofibrate, which augments the quantity of anti-diuretic hormone released by the pituitary gland. Alternately, physicians may also prescribe chlorpropamide, which also has the same function as clofibrate.

Use of these medications also facilitates the kidneys to receive the hormone. On the other hand, mild cases of diabetes insipidus may also be treated by using diuretics akin to thiazide, for instance, chlorthalidone. Normally, the effect of these medications helps to augment production of urine. However, in the case of diabetes insipidus, these medications have an reverse effect - they lessen the loss of water from the body.

Medicaments used to reduce prolactin levels

Lactogenic hormone, also known as prolactin, is produced in men as well as women. In the case of women, lactogenic hormone regulates breast milk secretion after childbirth. However, the function of this hormone in men is yet to be ascertained. It seems that prolactin has a vital role in normal production of sperm in men.

It is worth mentioning here that all disorders related to prolactin or lactogenic hormone are concerned with its excessive production in the body. When women have elevated levels of prolactin in their body, they may experience various conditions, including galactorrhea, a condition wherein there is lactation even in the absence of pregnancy or childbirth; amenorrhea, a condition wherein women do not have sufficient or any menstruation; as well as infertility. On the other hand, excessive lactogenic hormone production in men may cause galactorrhea and/ or infertility.

A number of medications, such as estrogen, phenothiazine antipsychotics and methyldopa, may all work to enhance the amount of prolactin or lactogenic hormone present in the bloodstream. However, it has been found that very often a pituitary tumour is responsible for excessive production of prolactin. This condition may be cured by surgery, which entails the removal of the tumour. A drug called bromocriptine works to slow down prolactin production and, at the same time, this medication is also prescribed to treat prolactin tumours.

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