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13.15: Endocrine System Diseases

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    How tall can a person become?

    This may be an exaggeration, but the world's tallest person, Robert Pershing Wadlow, stood almost nine feet tall when he died at the age of 22. Is growing that tall due to a problem with the endocrine system?

    Endocrine System Disorders

    Diseases of the endocrine system are relatively common. An endocrine disease usually involves the secretion of too much or not enough hormone. When too much hormone is secreted, it is called hypersecretion. When not enough hormone is secreted, it is called hyposecretion.


    Hypersecretion by an endocrine gland is often caused by a tumor. For example, a tumor of the pituitary gland can cause hypersecretion of growth hormone. If this occurs in childhood, it results in very long arms and legs and abnormally tall stature by adulthood. The condition is commonly known as gigantism (see Figure below).

    f-d_d8c6e5f4555d58f7fc4e68342e3080006466ef32411d8cb51c6cd604+IMAGE_THUMB_LARGE_TINY+IMAGE_THUMB_LARGE_TINY.jpgHypersecretion of growth hormone leads to abnormal growth, often called gigantism.


    Destruction of hormone-secreting cells of a gland may result in not enough of a hormone being secreted. This occurs in type 1 diabetes. In this case, the body’s own immune system attacks and destroys cells of the pancreas that secrete insulin, making type 1 diabetes an autoimmune disease. A person with type 1 diabetes must frequently monitor the level of glucose in the blood (see Figure below). If the level of blood glucose is too high, insulin is injected to bring it under control. If it is too low, a small amount of sugar is consumed.

    f-d_b61ea1654364bdb228bed71ceb811226b68a374da9658453ca39118c+IMAGE_THUMB_POSTCARD_TINY+IMAGE_THUMB_POSTCARD_TINY.jpgTo measure the level of glucose in the blood, a drop of blood is placed on a test strip, which is read by a meter.

    Hormone Resistance

    In some cases, an endocrine gland secretes a normal amount of hormone, but target cells do not respond to the hormone. Often, this is because target cells have become resistant to the hormone. Type 2 diabetes is an example of this type of endocrine disorder. In type 2 diabetes, body cells do not respond to normal amounts of insulin. As a result, cells do not take up glucose and the amount of glucose in the blood becomes too high. This type of diabetes is usually treated with medication and diet. The addition of extra insulin to the treatment can help some patients.


    • Endocrine system disorders usually involve the secretion of too much or not enough hormone. For example, a tumor of the adrenal gland may lead to excessive secretion of growth hormone, which causes gigantism.
    • In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not secrete enough insulin, which causes high levels of glucose in the blood.


    1. Define hypersecretion. Give an example of an endocrine disorder that involves hypersecretion.
    2. Explain why a person with type 2 diabetes is not affected by normal amounts of insulin. Will providing extra insulin help this person?
    Image Reference Attributions
    f-d_27585b3103bab190efedde2d8abbc402ea73ef2f4419efdf512b07ab+IMAGE_TINY+IMAGE_TINY.jpg [Figure 1] Credit: Rupali Raju
    Source: CK-12 Foundation
    License: CC BY-NC
    f-d_d8c6e5f4555d58f7fc4e68342e3080006466ef32411d8cb51c6cd604+IMAGE_THUMB_SMALL_TINY+IMAGE_THUMB_SMALL_TINY.jpg [Figure 2] Source:
    License: Public Domain
    f-d_b61ea1654364bdb228bed71ceb811226b68a374da9658453ca39118c+IMAGE_THUMB_SMALL_TINY+IMAGE_THUMB_SMALL_TINY.jpg [Figure 3] Credit: Rupali Raju
    Source: CK-12 Foundation
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    13.15: Endocrine System Diseases is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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