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The Endocrine System & Types of Hormones: An Overview
The Endocrine System | What is an Endocrinologist? | Find-an-Endocrinologist | Patient Resources | Useful Links
Your endocrine system is a complex network comprised of integrated hormone-producing glands and organs. Its function, like that of the nervous system, is communication; the endocrine system produces and releases different types of hormones to maintain and control a number of important functions throughout the body, including growth and development, metabolism, and tissue function. A hormone imbalance (either too much or too little hormone volume) can have a drastic effect on body function.
The main purpose of the endocrine system is extracellular (outside the cell) communication; while the nervous system communicates using neurons and electricity, the endocrine system uses chemicals, called hormones, to communicate between cells and regulate body functions. Components of the endocrine system include hormone-producing glands, such as the hypothalamus, pituitary, and thyroid, and organs such as the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. Each of the glands and organs in the endocrine system produces different types of hormones that perform different functions.
A number of different conditions can affect the way the endocrine system functions. Some of these conditions are natural: our endocrine system functions differently when we age, for example. There can be a genetic, or hereditary, component to the way an individual's endocrine system works as well. However, a number of external substances can also affect endocrine function. These substances, called environmental endocrine disruptors (EEDs), consist of commercial synthetic chemicals and, although the full effect of their introduction into our environment is unknown, have been linked to birth defects, immune system disorders, neurological changes, and more.
To learn more about the workings of this complex system and its effect on the body, please visit our overview of the endocrine system.
Types of Hormones and What They Do
In order to regulate the myriad functions required for normal bodily function, the glands and organs that comprise the endocrine system create many types of hormones, each with a specific function. Included in the different types of hormones your endocrine system produces are the following:
This list comprises only a few of the types of hormones produced by the endocrine system. For more detailed information about the endocrine glands and the types of hormones they produce, please refer to our endocrine system overview.
Each of the many types of hormones fulfills a specific function by signaling a different message to the cells, tissues, or organs involved. A hormone imbalance, a situation in which there is too much or too little of a specific hormone, can result in a number of different endocrine system disorders, some more serious than others.