The endocrine system of the human body consists of a number of glands that produce various hormones. These hormones are nothing but messengers that travel through the blood stream and regulate different body activities. Thus, the endocrine system controls various processes that take place in our body, right from growth of a cell to controlling the mood or behavior.
The main functions of the endocrine system are, regulation of tissue function, development and growth of the body, metabolism, mood regulation, and reproductive processes. Pituitary gland, hypothalamus, thyroid gland, adrenal glands, and reproductive glands are some of the glands of our endocrine system. All these glands secrete different hormones that regulate different body functions.
Pediatric Endocrine Disorders
An endocrine disorder is caused due to change in the level of specific hormones in the blood. They are also referred to as hormonal disorders, since, they are caused due to hormonal imbalance. Over secretion or under secretion of any hormone can cause harm to the body. There are a number of causes of such disorders, which include; an autoimmune disorder, dysfunction of the endocrine gland, genetic disorder, injury to the endocrine gland, etc. Diabetes, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, etc. are some of the endocrine diseases in children. Now, let us take a detailed look at the information on these disorders that occur in children.
Diabetes in not only a health problem in adults, but it affects children as well. Type 1 (juvenile diabetes) and type 2 diabetes are the two type of diabetes observed in children. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, which regulates the blood sugar level in the body. This condition occurs as a result of insulin imbalance in the body. In type 1 diabetes, insulin is not produced in enough amount, while in type 2 the body does not respond to the insulin produced by the body. Dietary changes, insulin injections, etc. may help the child to control the increased blood sugar level.
Human growth hormone is secreted by the pituitary gland. It is the hormone responsible for overall growth of the human body. Too much secretion of this growth hormone leads to endocrine disorders called gigantism, where the overall body size of the child is exceptionally big for his/her age. Whereas, the opposite happens when this hormone is secreted in very less amount. The deficiency of this hormone can also cause low blood sugar in children.
Hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism are two types of thyroid disorders. Hypothyroidism occurs as a result of low level of thyroid hormones in the blood, while hyperthyroidism is a consequence of high level of thyroid hormones. The symptoms of the former are excessive sweating, weight loss, enlarged thyroid, nervousness, etc., while that of the latter are dry skin, fatigue, constipation, depression, etc. Both these disorders might be treated with different medications and surgery, if required.
For girls, the average age to reach puberty is 10, while for boys it is 12. Precocious puberty is when the child shows the signs of puberty at a very early age. For girls, this age is before 7-8 years, while for boys its before 9 years. The symptoms of precocious puberty differ according to the gender. Girls may show symptoms like development of breasts, menstruation, etc., while boys will show signs like deepened voice, enlargement of penis, etc. This endocrine disorder is due to dysfunction of hypothalamus gland.
Cushing's syndrome is caused due to increased level of cortisol in the blood. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. The excess secretion of this hormone may occur due to medications like corticosteroids, or due to tumor of pituitary gland. The treatment of this condition depends on the cause of cortisol over secretion. Muscle weakness, obesity, and high blood pressure are some of the symptoms of this disease, which usually have a late onset.
This was a brief information on the endocrine disorders in children. When parents come across any of the signs and symptoms of such disorders, they should consult a pediatrician at the earliest, to provide an appropriate treatment to the child.