By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Hormones are vital for maintaining normal health, growth, development and various other aspects of the body. Either excessive or deficient secretion of hormones can therefore cause diseases and disorders.
A low secretion of hormones due to an underactive endocrine gland can be treated using replacement therapy with synthetically prepared hormones. These are mostly given as pills and examples include thyroid hormone replacement and estrogen and progesterone pills. Some of the hormones are peptides and may be damaged by the gastric acids if taken as pills, in which case they need to be administered intravenously, as is the case with insulin.
Hormonal replacement medications
Estrogen and progesterone pills are used as oral contraceptive pills, emergency contraceptive pills or as hormone replacement therapy in several hormonal disorders
Thyroxin or levothyroxin pills are used to treat hypothyroidism or an underactive thyroid gland. Levothyroxin is also used to treat cretinism in infants.
Gonadotropin hormones that regulate the secretions of sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone are used to treat several disease conditions, infertility and prostrate disorders.
Steroids may be given in the form of pills to treat several allergic, inflammatory or autoimmune conditions. They may be used in the inhaled form in bronchial asthma or as nasal sprays in allergic rhinitis. Steroid injections may also be given in cases of emergency such as acute asthma attack or shock. In addition, anabolic steroids can increase muscle growth and are administered to treat certain muscular and other developmental disorders.
Insulin hormone injections are used to treat individuals with type 1 diabetes or women with gestational diabetes who have failed to respond to other treatment approaches. Insulin is sometimes used by individuals with type 2 diabetes in cases where the disease has progressed to advanced stages.
The hormone glucagon may be administered in cases of severe diabetic hypoglycaemia in order to restore blood sugar levels.
Hormonal preparations are one of the major classes of drugs used in medicine. Many of the hormones are naturally secreted in microscopic amounts and the replacement hormones are therefore often designed to be released in amounts similar to those that would occur naturally in the body.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Dec 2, 2013