What Is Endocrinology

What Is Endocrinology ?

Endocrinology refers to a subdivision of internal medicine that helps to treat diseases and problems associated with the endocrine system. In addition, as a subdivision of biology, endocrinology deals with the chemistry, synthesis, the working, and the storage of hormones and the organs and glands associated with the endocrine system.

There are several glands that comprise the endocrine system and these glands are located in different parts of the human body. As these glands do not have ducts, they release their hormones straight into the bloodstream. Many functions in the body, some extremely important, are controlled by hormones. One particular hormone has specific task, but the effect it has on various organs can be multifold. Also, one organ can be affected by many hormones.

When hormones were first identified, there were criteria for chemicals to be labeled as hormones. These criteria were set in 1902 by Starling and Bayliss. According to them, hormones were chemicals that were produced by a particular organ, thereafter the chemicals were released into the bloodstream, and then carried to an organ that was located far from the secreting organ. Here the chemical would have an effect on the organ. While the definition still holds true, hormones have gained a broader outlook based on how they carry signals and affect cells.

Hormones work by binding to receptor sites. However, these receptor sites are specific for each hormone. Once the hormone binds to the correct site, an allosteric change occurs in the cell and this stimulates the right response from the cells.

Endocrinology identifies 3 groups of hormones, namely steroid, peptide and amine. Steroid hormones are formed from cholesterol and good examples are testosterone and estrogen. Peptide hormones are protein-based hormones and examples include insulin and growth hormones. As the name suggests, amine hormones have amino acids, and examples are thyroid hormones and adrenaline, which is released by the adrenal glands.

When hormones are not in the right amount in the body, it becomes a medical problem. This problem is treated by a specialist in endocrinology. The specialist is known as an endocrinologist. The specialist will make use of lab results to come to a diagnosis and based on that he or she will begin the necessary treatment. If the hormone level is too high, treatment will involve inhibiting the particular hormone. On the other hand, if the hormone level is too low, then treatment involves stimulating the production of the hormone. Any health problems that are caused due hormonal imbalances are treated by endocrinologists. Hence, conditions like reproductive problems, thyroid problems and diabetes also come under the purview of an endocrinologist.

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