What is endocrinology?
Endocrinology is the study of hormones. Hormones are essential for our every-day survival. They control our temperature, sleep, mood, stress, growth and more.
An endocrinologist is a doctor that treats diseases related to problems with hormones. A hormone is a chemical messenger that travels from one cell to another. Hormones are released in one part of the body, travel in the blood stream and have an effect on other part of the body. This helps different parts of the human body to communicate with each other. Hormones are secreted by endocrine glands, such as the pituitary, thyroid or adrenal glands. Not all glands are classified as endocrine glands; for example, sweat glands or lymph glands are not endocrine glands.
Hormones are found in all organisms with more than one cell, and so they are found in plants and animals. They influence or control a wide range of physiological activities, such as growth, development, puberty, level of alertness, sugar regulation and appetite, bone growth, etc. You also find that problems with hormones and the way they work contribute to some of the major diseases of mankind; for example, diabetes, thyroid conditions, pituitary conditions, some sexual problems, some neurological problems, appetite and obesity, bone problems, cancer, etc.
There are whole sub-specialities devoted to specific areas where hormones work. For example:
- Paediatric endocrinology, looking at hormones in children
- Thyroid endocrinology, looking at how the thyroid affects metabolism
- Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, where chemicals which mimic the effects of hormones are present in the environment
- Comparative endocrinology, which looks at the way similar hormones work in different species (e.g. from insects, through to fish, birds, mammals, etc)
Sometimes there are specific societies devoted to the study of these subspecialities.
There are numerous textbooks which can give background information on endocrinology. For example, an online textbook can be found at: