Other Common Diseases & Conditions

There are many different types of endocrine disorders and related diseases and conditions. We've covered some of the common ones such as diabetes, thyroid, adrenal, osteoporosis and obesity; and below are a few others that you may have heard about.

Parathyroid Conditions

Each the size of a grain of rice, the body’s four parathyroid glands monitor the calcium level in our bodies. Parathyroid glands control the calcium levels in our blood, in our bones, and throughout our body. Parathyroid glands regulate the calcium by producing a hormone called parathyroid hormone (PTH). The parathyroid glands also help the lining of the intestines become more efficient at absorbing calcium in the diet.

Primary hyperparathyroidism

Primary hyperparathyroidism means that an individual has overactive parathyroid disease. This condition cannot be prevented, and the only treatment is surgical removal of the abnormal gland. About 1 in 600 to 1 in 1,000 people have primary hyperparathyroidism.

Secondary hyperparathyroidism

Secondary hyperparathyroidism cannot be prevented unless one was able to prevent the cause of the primary hyperparathyroidism – something that is not usually possible. Chronic kidney disease is usually silent, and the secondary hyperparathyroidism develops during this silent phase. 

In brief, hyperparathyroidism is essentially not a preventable condition. However, both primary and secondary hyperparathyroidism are very treatable.

Low blood calcium

Low blood calcium is much less common, particularly when caused by a parathyroid gland problem. There are some conditions that are present from birth and are quickly detected and treated immediately. The treatment must be lifelong.

Pituitary Conditions

No larger than the size of a pea, the pituitary is often referred to as the “master” gland because it releases hormones that regulate the function of endocrine glands such as the thyroid, adrenals and reproductive glands. It also produces hormones that stimulate the growth of bones and tissues, affect sexual development, encourage reabsorption of water by the kidneys and even trigger uterine contractions during and after labor.

Pituitary tumor

A pituitary tumor (or “adenoma”) is an abnormal growth that develops on your pituitary gland. Most pituitary tumors are noncancerous, and they represent only about 10% of all tumors in the head. They are not “brain tumors,” since the pituitary is located just below the main portion of the brain. With proper care, many people live with pituitary problems and lead normal, healthy, happy lives.

Other pituitary conditions

In addition to pituitary adenomas, there are many other (admittedly less common) conditions that can affect the pituitary gland, including other tumors, cysts and inflammation among others. These can also cause pituitary underactivity or lead to vision loss.

Reproductive Conditions

The ovaries in females and testes in males are the bodies sex glands necessary for reproduction. These glands produce male and female hormones, like estrogren and testosterone. Sometimes these hormones don't work right — and reproductive endocrinology is a branch of medicine that can identify and treat infertility in both men and women. A reproductive endocrinologist, sometimes referred to as an RE, is an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) physician specialist who has completed a three-year fellowship of intense training in various aspects of endocrine disorders related to the reproductive system in both males and females.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome, commonly known as PCOS, is the most common endocrine condition in females of reproductive age, affecting as many as one out of 10 in the United States. PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women of child-bearing age. Even though the name suggests that the ovaries are central to pathology of the disease, cysts are not a cause of PCOS, but rather a symptom. And it is not simply a gynecological disorder impacting a woman’s reproductive system. It can also affect hormones, sugar metabolism, lipids (blood fats) and blood vessels. Although PCOS is believed to be genetic, the exact genes and patterns of inheritance are not clear. 

There is currently no single, simple test for diagnosing PCOS. Physicians look for a variety of symptoms, some of which are manifested in appearance. Among the physical clues that PCOS may be present are excessive facial and/or body hair, a condition known as hirsutism; acne; patches of thick, darkened skin on the neck, groin, underarms or skin folds (a condition called acanthosis nigrican); loss of scalp hair; skin tags, which are small, soft flaps of skin that resemble tiny, extended fingers; and weight gain, particularly around the middle section of the body. Additional symptoms include irregular or absent menstrual periods, elevated cholesterol, high blood sugar and recurring pregnancy loss.