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Health Information For Teens
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 (pronounced: 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 (pronounced: 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 (pronounced: 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 (pronounced: 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 (pronounced: 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 (pronounced: thy-RAHK-sin) and triiodothyronine (pronounced: 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 (pronounced: par-uh-THY-roydz). They release parathyroid hormone, which controls the level of calcium in the blood with the help of calcitonin (pronounced: kal-suh-TOE-nin), which the thyroid makes.
Adrenal Glands: These two triangular adrenal (pronounced: 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 (pronounced: pih-NEE-ul) body, also called the pineal gland, is in the middle of the brain. It secretes melatonin (pronounced: meh-luh-TOE-nin), a hormone that may help regulate when you sleep at night and when you wake in the morning.
Reproductive Glands: The gonads are the main source of sex hormones. Most people don’t realize it, but both guys and girls have gonads. In guys the male gonads, or testes (pronounced: TES-teez), are in the scrotum. They secrete hormones called androgens (pronounced: AN-druh-junz), the most important of which is
(pronounced: tess-TOSS-tuh-rone). These hormones tell a guy’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 guy’s body when it’s time to make sperm in the testes.
A girl’s gonads, the ovaries (pronounced: OH-vuh-reez), are in her pelvis. They make eggs and secrete the female hormones
(pronounced: ESS-truh-jen) and
(pronounced: 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 (pronounced: PAN-kree-us) makes insulin (pronounced: IN-suh-lin) and glucagon (pronounced: 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 endocrine system healthy:
Let the doctor know if you:
Concerned about your growth or development? Puberty can be delayed for several reasons. Luckily, doctors usually can help teens with delayed puberty to develop more normally.
Your body gets the energy it needs from food through a process called metabolism. Get all the facts on metabolism in this article.
At puberty, guys’ bodies begin producing a lot of the hormone testosterone, which causes changes in several parts of the body, including the voice.
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 polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), the ovaries produce higher than normal amounts of certain hormones, which can interfere with egg development and release. Learn how doctors diagnose and treat PCOS.
Periods can be confusing. Get the facts in this article for teens.
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.
What makes up a guy’s reproductive system and how does it develop? Find the answers to these questions and more.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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