What are Hormones?

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:

  • Pituitary gland
  • Pineal gland
  • Thymus
  • Thyroid
  • Adrenal glands
  • Pancreas
  • Testes
  • Ovaries

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.

Human body hormones. Image Credit: VectorMine / Shutterstock
Human body hormones. Image Credit: VectorMine / Shutterstock

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.

Further Reading

Last Updated: Nov 5, 2019

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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