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Health Information For Parents
The endocrine system is made up of glands that make hormones. Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. They carry information and instructions from one set of cells to another.
The endocrine (EN-duh-krin) system influences almost every cell, organ, and function of our bodies.
into the bloodstream. This lets the hormones travel to cells in other parts of the body.
, and reproduction.
Too much or too little of any hormone can harm the body. Medicines can treat many of these problems.
While many parts of the body make hormones, the major glands that make up the endocrine system are the:
The pancreas is part of the endocrine system and the digestive system. That’s because it secretes hormones into the bloodstream, and makes and secretes enzymes into the digestive tract.
Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus (hi-po-THAL-uh-mus) is in the lower central part of the brain. It links the endocrine system and nervous system. Nerve cells in the hypothalamus make chemicals that control the release of hormones secreted from the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus gathers information sensed by the brain (such as the surrounding temperature, light exposure, and feelings) and sends it to the pituitary. This information influences the hormones that the pituitary makes and releases.
Pituitary: The pituitary (puh-TOO-uh-ter-ee) gland is at the base of the brain, and is no bigger than a pea. Despite its small size, the pituitary is often called the “master gland.” The hormones it makes control many other endocrine glands.
The pituitary gland makes many hormones, such as:
The pituitary also secretes endorphins (en-DOR-fins), chemicals that act on the nervous system and reduce feelings of pain. The pituitary also secretes hormones that signal the reproductive organs to make sex hormones. The pituitary gland also controls
and the menstrual cycle in women.
Thyroid: The thyroid (THY-royd) is in the front part of the lower neck. It’s shaped like a bow tie or butterfly. It makes the thyroid hormones thyroxine (thy-RAHK-sin) and triiodothyronine (try-eye-oh-doe-THY-ruh-neen). These hormones control the rate at which cells burn fuels from food to make energy. The more thyroid hormone there is in the bloodstream, the faster chemical reactions happen in the body.
Thyroid hormones are important because they help kids’ and teens’ bones grow and develop, and they also play a role in the development of the brain and nervous system.
Parathyroids: Attached to the thyroid are four tiny glands that work together called the parathyroids (par-uh-THY-roydz). They release parathyroid hormone, which controls the level of calcium in the blood with the help of calcitonin (kal-suh-TOE-nin), which the thyroid makes.
Adrenal Glands: These two triangular adrenal (uh-DREE-nul) glands sit on top of each kidney. The adrenal glands have two parts, each of which makes a set of hormones and has a different function:
Pineal: The pineal (pih-NEE-ul) body, also called the pineal gland, is in the middle of the brain. It secretes melatonin (meh-luh-TOE-nin), a hormone that may help regulate when we sleep at night and wake in the morning.
Reproductive Glands: The gonads are the main source of sex hormones. In boys the male gonads, or testes (TES-teez), are in the scrotum. They secrete hormones called androgens (AN-druh-junz), the most important of which is
(tess-TOSS-tuh-rone). These hormones tell a boy’s body when it’s time to make the changes associated with puberty, like penis and height growth, deepening voice, and growth in facial and pubic hair. Working with hormones from the pituitary gland, testosterone also tells a boy’s body when it’s time to make sperm in the testes.
A girl’s gonads, the ovaries (OH-vuh-reez), are in her pelvis. They make eggs and secrete the female hormones
(pro-JESS-tuh-rone). Estrogen is involved when a girl starts puberty. During puberty, a girl will have breast growth, start to accumulate body fat around the hips and thighs, and have a growth spurt. Estrogen and progesterone are also involved in the regulation of a girl’s menstrual cycle. These hormones also play a role in pregnancy.
Pancreas: The pancreas (PAN-kree-us) makes insulin (IN-suh-lin) and glucagon (GLOO-kuh-gawn), which are hormones that control the level of glucose, or sugar, in the blood. Insulin helps keep the body supplied with stores of energy. The body uses this stored energy for exercise and activity, and it also helps organs work as they should.
To help keep your child’s endocrine system healthy:
Let the doctor know if your child:
Big physical and emotional changes happen during puberty and the teen years. These articles can help you become a source of information, comfort, and support for your kids.
Our Diabetes Center provides information and advice for teens about treating and living with diabetes.
Does your child have type 1 or type 2 diabetes? Learn how to manage the disease and keep your child healthy.
In most cases, teens who are small are just physically maturing a bit more slowly than their friends. Occasionally, though, there’s a medical reason why some kids and teens stop growing. Find out about growth problems and how doctors can help.
Diabetes means a problem with insulin, an important hormone in the body. Find out how children with diabetes can stay healthy and do the normal stuff kids like to do.
Your body gets the energy it needs from food through a process called metabolism. Get all the facts on metabolism in this article.
Do you know just how important the thyroid is? It helps you grow and affects your energy level.
Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, a sugar that is the body’s main source of fuel. Find out more about a kind of diabetes called type 2 diabetes in this article for kids.
Teens with type 2 diabetes have to pay close attention to what they eat and do.
Precocious puberty – when signs of puberty start before age 7 or 8 in girls and age 9 for boys – can be tough for kids. But it can be treated.
Puberty was awkward enough when you were the one going through it. So how can you help your kids through all the changes?
Diabetes is a disease that affects how the body uses glucose, a sugar that is the body’s main source of fuel. In type 1 diabetes, glucose can’t get into the body’s cells where it’s needed.
Thousands of kids all over the world have type 1 diabetes, a disease that affects how the body uses glucose.
Both boys and girls experience voice changes as they grow older, but it’s the boys that will notice the biggest difference. Find out more in this article for kids.
Brush up on metabolism, the chemical reactions in the body’s cells that change food into energy, in this article.
Watch this movie about your endocrine system, the system that produces hormones.
You’ve heard of glands, but what are they? Find out in this article for kids.
Understanding the male reproductive system and what it does can help you better understand your son’s reproductive health.
What makes up a guy’s reproductive system and how does it develop? Find the answers to these questions and more.
From the moment parents greet their newborn, they watch the baby’s progress eagerly. But how can they tell if their child is growing properly?
Take this quiz about the endocrine system, the system that produces hormones.
Learning about the female reproductive system, what it does, and the problems that can affect it can help you better understand your daughter’s reproductive health.
The endocrine system influences almost every cell, organ, and function of our bodies. It is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, metabolism, and sexual function, among other things.
Voice cracking? Clothes don’t fit? Puberty can be a confusing time, but learning about it doesn’t have to be. Read all about it in this article for kids.
Hyperthyroidism happens when the thyroid gland sends too much thyroid hormone into the blood. The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease.
Some babies are born with a thyroid gland that didn’t develop correctly or doesn’t work as it should. This is called congenital hypothyroidism.
The thyroid gland makes the hormones that help control metabolism and growth. A thyroid that isn’t working properly can cause thyroid disease.
An underactive thyroid makes too little thyroid hormone, causing hypothyroidism. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which causes most cases of hypothyroidism in kids and teens, is a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid.
Why do girls get periods? What goes on when a woman gets pregnant? What can go wrong with the female reproductive system? Find the answers to these questions and more in this article for teens.
Every year in the United States, 13,000 children are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. With some practical knowledge, you can become your child’s most important ally in learning to live with the disease.
Learning what you can about type 2 diabetes will let you help your child manage and live with the disease. Here are the basics.
The other kids in the class have been getting taller and developing into young adults, but your child’s growth seems to be lagging behind. Could a growth disorder be the cause?
A testosterone blood test may be done if a boy appears to be entering puberty earlier or later than expected, or to check for damage or disease of the testes or ovaries, adrenal glands, or pituitary glands.
Adrenal insufficiency is a condition that happens when the adrenal glands do not work as they should.
Cushing syndrome can happen when there are too many glucocorticoid hormones in the body.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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