By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Hormones are chemical messengers that are secreted directly into the blood, which carries them to organs and tissues of the body to exert their functions. There are many types of hormones that act on different aspects of bodily functions and processes. Some of these include:
Development and growth
Metabolism of food items
Sexual function and reproductive growth and health
Cognitive function and mood
Maintenance of body temperature and thirst
Where are they secreted from?
Hormones are secreted from the endocrine glands in the body. The glands are ductless, so hormones are secreted directly into the blood stream rather than by way of ducts. Some of the major endocrine glands in the body include:
These organs secrete hormone in microscopic amounts and it takes only very small amounts to bring about major changes in the body. Even a very slight excess of hormone secretion can lead to disease states, as can the slightest deficiency in a hormone.
Hormones and diseases
Hormone disorders are diagnosed in the laboratory as well as by clinical appearance and features. Laboratory tests can be used to test bodily fluids such as the blood, urine or saliva for hormone abnormalities.
In the case of hormone deficiency, a synthetic hormone replacement therapy may be used and in cases of excess hormone production, medications may be used to curb the effects of the hormone. For example, a person with an underactive thyroid gland or hypothyroidism may be treated with synthetic thyroxine which can be taken in the form of a pill, while a person with an overactive thyroid may be administered a drug such as propranolol to counteract the effects of the excess thyroid hormone.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc