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Endocrine Glands and Types of Hormones

Glands are located throughout various parts of the human body. These glands take on the critical task of releasing hormones, and as a whole, they are most commonly referred to as the endocrine system.

The following glands make up the endocrine system:

Pituitary Gland

This gland is often referred to as the "master gland." It greatly influences other organs in the body, and its function is vital to the overall well-being of a person. The pituitary gland produces several hormones. In fact, the front part of it, commonly called the anterior pituitary, produces the following types of hormones: pituitary gland

-Growth hormone: This hormone promotes growth in childhood. For adults, it helps to maintain healthy muscle and bone mass.

-Prolactin: In women, it stimulates milk production. In males, low levels are linked to sexual problems; however, most males make no use of the hormone.

-Adrenocorticotropic: This hormone promotes the production of cortisol, which helps to reduce stress, maintain healthy blood pressure and more.

-Thyroid-stimulating hormone: Just as the name implies, this hormone helps to regulate the body's thyroid, which is crucial in maintaining a healthy metabolism.

-Luteinizing hormone: In women, this hormone regulates estrogen. In men, it regulates testosterone.

-Follicle-stimulating hormone: Found in both men and women. It stimulates the releasing of eggs in women and helps ensure the normal function of sperm production in men.

The back part of the pituitary gland is called the posterior pituitary. It produces the following two hormones:

-Oxytocin: This hormone causes pregnant women to start having contractions at the appropriate time and also promotes milk flow in nursing mothers.

-Antidiuretic hormone: Commonly referred to as vasopressin, this hormone helps to regulate water balance in the body.

When the pituitary gland doesn't operate in a healthy manner, this can lead to pituitary disorders.

Hypothalamus

The hypothalamus is in control of pituitary hormones by releasing the following types of hormones: 

- Thyrotrophic-releasing hormone
- Growth hormone-releasing hormone
- Corticotrophin-releasing hormone
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone

 

 

Thymus

This gland secretes hormones that are commonly referred to as humoral factors and are important during puberty. The role of these hormones is to make sure a person develops a healthy immune system. 

      

 

 

 

 

 

Pineal Gland

The pineal gland releases melatonin, which helps the body recognize when it is time to go to sleep. Researchers continue to learn more about this gland.

 

 

 

 

Testes

Found in men, this gland produces testosterone, which promotes the growth of the penis as a male gets older as well as facial and body hair. It also deepens the voice of a male at a certain age. Other functions of testosterone include:

- Maintaining sex drive
- Promoting production of sperm
- Maintaining healthy levels of muscle and bone mass
       

 

 

 

 

 

Ovaries

Found in women, this gland produces both estrogen and progesterone, which promote the development of breasts. They also help a woman maintain healthy menstrual periods. 

  

 

Thyroid

Found in both women and men, the thyroid controls a person's metabolism. It is located in the front of the neck.

  

 

 

 

 

Adrenal Glands

This gland helps to control blood sugar. In addition, also helps your body do the following:

- Promoting proper cardiovascular function
- Properly utilizing carbohydrates and fats
- Helps distribute stored fat
- Promotes healthy gastrointestinal functions

 

 

 

 

Parathyroid

This gland is vital to proper bone development because it helps control both calcium and phosphorous levels in the body. The parathyroid gland is actually a group of four small glands located behind the thyroid gland.

 

 

Pancreas

The main function of the pancreas is to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. It is a large gland located behind the stomach.

Editors:
Bradley Anawalt, MD
Susan Kirk, MD
Dorothy Shulman, MD

Illustrator: Molly Feuer, 2013

Last Review: May 2013