DISEASES AND DISORDERS OF THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM
The function of the endocrine system is to help the nervous system regulate the
processes of the body; for example, growth, metabolic rate, etc. Therefore, disease in
any part of the endocrine system will cause problems in several body functions. This
lesson examines some of the diseases and disorders of the endocrine system.
DISEASES OF THE THYROID GLAND
a. Hyperthyroidism (Graves Disease).
(1) Description. Hyperthyroidism is an imbalance in the body's metabolism
caused by excessive production of the thyroid hormone. Too much thyroxine is
produced which leads to many changes in the body, a most noticeable change being an
enlarged thyroid gland in the neck--a goiter. This condition occurs chiefly in the 30 to 40
age group. Only five percent of patients with this condition are under age 15.
(2) Signs and symptoms. Excessive production of the thyroid hormone
causes changes in many of the body systems. Central nervous system changes
include excitability or nervousness and a tremor in the hands. Cardiovascular system
changes include tachycardia and a full, bounding pulse. Respiratory changes include
labored breathing, and a higher incidence of spontaneous abortions is one of the
changes in the reproductive system. Not all these changes always occur in a patient
with hyperthyroidism. The most common body changes, characteristic of Graves'
disease, a type of upper thyroidism, and are listed below.
(a) Enlarged thyroid gland, commonly called a goiter.
(b) Heat intolerance and unusual sweating.
Nervousness and weakness.
(d) Overactivity combined with irritability and fatigue.
Unexplained weight loss, usually with increased appetite.
(f) Exophthalmos (protruding eyes), a fixed stare, and a lack of visual
accommodation. (Protruding eyes are caused by the effects of accumulated
intracellular material and fluids in the tissues behind the eye which force the eyeball
outward. Sometimes the eyelids retract causing the patient to look as if he is staring.)