Disorders of the Endocrine System

Disorders of the endocrine system and psychological symptoms

The endocrine system is a network of glands that secrete substances called hormones into the bloodstream. The hormones regulate the body’s metabolism. If the 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 can’t maintain the right level of hormones in the bloodstream, and may lead to endocrine disorders. There are many different types of endocrine disorders.

  • Diabetes is the most common endocrine disorder diagnosed in the United States.
  • Adrenal insufficiency. The adrenal gland releases too little of the hormone cortisol and sometimes, aldosterone. Addison’s disease is a type of adrenal insufficiency.
  • Cushing’s disease. Overproduction of a pituitary gland hormone leads to an overactive adrenal gland.
  • Gigantism 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. 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.
  • Hypopituitarism. The pituitary gland releases little or no hormones.
  • 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.
  • Precocious puberty. Abnormally early puberty that occurs when glands tell the body to release sex hormones too soon in life.

Testing for endocrine disorders is performed by an endocrinologist. The symptoms of an endocrine disorder vary widely and depend on the specific gland involved. However, most people with endocrine disease complain of psychological symptoms like depression, fatigue and weakness. There are many other areas of interaction between physical disorders and psychotic disorders. Below are some examples:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) symptoms can include delirium or coma, palpitations, anxiety, tremor.
  • Hypotyroidism is accompanied by psychiatric symptoms of depression, anxiety and cognitive impairment.
  • Hyperthyroidism produces symptoms as anxiety, fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, decresed concentration, decreased memory, major depression.
  • Adrenal disorders Cushing syndrom mimic depression.
  • Diabetis is accompanied by fatigue, memory impairment, depression.
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) causes a general slowing of all body functions. Patient complains of depresion and fatigue.
  • Hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxicosis: usually associated with anxiety but may present as depression, especially in the elderly who may have few classical signs of thyroid disease.
  • Adrenal hypofunction (Addison’s Disease): often presents with weakness and fatigue.
  • Adrenal hyperfunction (Cushing’s Disease): either depression or mania.
  • Hyperparathyroidism: lassitude, anorexia, weakness, and depressed mood.

The close relationship between psychiatry and endocrinology was recognized many years ago by many great psychiatrists including Sigmund Freud. In general, endocrine disorders may lead to depressive syndromes. Depression in the context of endocrine disease may be more difficult to treat or may respond only when the endocrine disorder is addressed. Also, the course of endocrine disease may be adversely affected by depression. Doctors often do not take enough time with patients to get to the root cause of their issues. There is a very real possibility that what seems to be a psychiatric problem is caused by some physical illness. In order to decide if a
physical disorder exists, the psychiatrist and doctor must have comprehensive information. For example, a patient complaining of depression with decreased energy level, is also complaining of increased weight, cold intolerance, and extremely dry skin. Therefore, the patient must have physical exams before making psychological diagnosis, as thyroid problems or any other medical problems might be potentiating his depression. Thus the importance of physical exams before making any diagnosis is crucial.



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About Endocrine System

The endocrine system is a network of glands that produce and release hormones that help control
many important body functions. A malfunctioning of one or more of these glands can unbalance
the hormones in the body and lead to an endocrine disorder, or endocrine disease.

Some endocrine disorders are: diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, Cushing’s disease, gigantism,
hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, multiple endocrine neoplasia I and II, polycystic ovary
syndrome, precocious puberty. The disorders of the endocrine system can have symptoms that
look like psychological symptoms. Some of these symptoms are: depression, anxiety, fatigue,
mood swings, decreased concentration, and decreased memory. Therefore, it is very important
that patients must have physical exams before making psychological diagnosis.

Calf Muscles and Charlie Horse Cramps

The muscular system can be broken down into three types of muscles: skeletal, smooth and cardiac. Skeletal muscles are the only voluntary muscle tissue in the human body and control every action that a person consciously performs.

As the muscular system impacts so many of the functions necessary to sustain life, any muscle disorder can cause health problems, ranging from minor to severe. Not only do muscular disorders affect mobility, but can result in many other functional abnormalities, such as the inability to breath, swallow or speak.

Causes of muscle disorders include injury or overuse, such as sprains or strains, cramps or tendinitis, a genetic disorder, such as muscular dystrophy, cancers, inflammation, such as myositis, diseases of nerves that affect muscles, infections, and certain medicines.

Calf muscle – The calf muscle, on the back of the lower leg, is actually made up of two muscles: the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the larger calf muscle, forming the bulge visible beneath the skin. The gastrocnemius has two parts that create its diamond shape. The soleus is a smaller, flat muscle that lies underneath the gastrocnemius muscle. The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles taper and merge at the base of the calf muscle.

The connective tissue at the bottom of the calf muscle merges with the Achilles tendon that inserts into the heel bone (calcaneus). During walking, running, or jumping, the calf muscle pulls the heel up to allow forward movement.

Stretching the calf muscle past its normal length results in tearing of some calf muscle fibers. Calf muscle strains can vary from mild to severe. A calf muscle strain is commonly called a pulled calf muscle, therefore “pulling” the muscle refers to stretching the calf muscle beyond its limit.

Sometimes the calf muscles suddenly become hard, tight, and extremely painful. That is a muscle cramp. A muscle cramp (Charley Horse) is a sudden, brief, involuntary, painful contraction. ‘Charley Horse’ is a popular term for painful spasms or cramps in the leg muscles, typically lasting anywhere from a few seconds to about a day.

These muscle cramps can have many possible causes directly resulting from high or low pH or substrate concentrations in the blood, including hormonal imbalances, low levels of magnesium, potassium or calcium, dehydration, muscle fatigue, poor blood circulation in the legs, overexertion of the calf muscles while exercising, insufficient stretching before exercise, exercising in the heat, side effects of medication, or, more seriously, diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and neuropathy.

In most cases, self-care measures are sufficient for dealing with muscle cramps, which typically go away within minutes. When muscle cramps occur, there are several things you can do to help ease them, such as massaging, stretching, icing the muscle, warming the muscle. To help reduce the risk of cramps in the future, you need to stay hydrated, stretch properly before exercise, eat more foods high in vitamins and magnesium and calcium.