When you are injured, a complicated process of inflammation and blood clotting is triggered. Prostaglandins are a group of lipids that are part of this process. Problems with prostaglandins can limit the healing process, cause increased inflammation and pain, and impact your overall health.
Prostaglandins are hormones created during a chemical reaction at the site where an injury or other issue occurs. They are unique among hormones, because unlike most of the chemical messengers, they are not secreted from a gland. Instead, they are created at the time they are needed directly where the problem exists.
What does prostaglandins do?
Prostaglandins control several processes in the body, especially as it relates to the healing process. When tissue is damaged or infected, this group of hormones will create the reactions that cause pain, fever and inflammation, which sparks the healing process. Prostaglandins also stimulate the formation of a blood clot and the contraction of the blood vessel wall when your body is bleeding. Once blood clots are no longer needed and the injury begins to heal, another prostaglandin will stimulate the changes that allow the clots to dissipate and the blood vessel wall to relax.
In women, prostaglandins assist in regulating the reproductive system. They can start labor and control ovulation. Synthetic prostaglandins are sometimes used to induce labor for pregnant women.
Potential Problems with Prostaglandins
Problems with prostaglandins production can occur, leading to unwanted inflammation in the body. The prostaglandins are part of a natural response to stresses, but excessive prostaglandins production can cause chronic problems with pain. Painful menstruation, arthritis, heavy menstrual bleeding and some types of cancer are all connected to excessive prostaglandins levels. Some anti-inflammatory medications work by blocking the enzymes that cause these hormones’ production, thus reducing inflammation.
Sometimes, the body will not create enough prostaglandins to heal the injury or start labor. While this is not connected to any chronic health condition, artificial prostaglandins can help. In fact, prostaglandins are sometimes used to treat stomach ulcers and glaucoma as a result.
Questions to ask your doctor
If you are concerned that prostaglandins imbalance could be causing your physical symptoms, you need to discuss your concerns with an endocrinologist. You may wish to ask:
If you do not have an endocrinologist, you can find one on our physician referral directory. With the help of the right doctor, you can take control of your health again.
The Hormone Health Network is the public education affiliate of the Endocrine Society dedicated to helping both patients and doctors find information on the prevention, treatment and cure of hormone-related conditions.
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