Endocrinology is a branch of biology and medicine dealing with the endocrine system, its diseases, and its specific secretions called hormones, the integration of developmental events such as proliferation, growth, and differentiation (including histogenesis and organogenesis) and the coordination of metabolism, respiration, excretion,movement, reproduction, and sensory perception depend on chemical cues, substances synthesized and secreted by specialized cells.
Endocrinology is concerned with the study of the biosynthesis, storage, chemistry, Physiological function of hormones and Pathology with the cells of the endocrine glands and tissues that secrete them.
The endocrine system consists of several glands, all and in different parts of the body, that secrete hormones directly into the blood rather than into a duct system. Hormones have many different functions and modes of action; one hormone may have several effects on different target organs, and, conversely, one target organ may be affected by more than one hormone.
In the original 1902 definition by Bayliss and Starling they specified that, to be classified as a hormone, a chemical must be produced by an organ, be released (in small amounts) into the blood, and be transported by the blood to a distant organ to exert its specific function. This definition holds for most "classical" hormones, but there are also paracrine mechanisms (chemical communication between cells within a tissue or organ), autocrine signals (a chemical that acts on the same cell), and intracrine signals (a chemical that acts within the same cell). A neuroendocrine signal is a "classical" hormone that is released into the blood by a neurosecretory neuron Hormones act by binding to specific receptors in the target organ. As Baulieu notes, a receptor has at least two basic constituents:
- a recognition site, to which the hormone binds
- an effector site, which precipitates the modification of cellular function.
Between these is a "transduction mechanism" in which hormone binding induces allosteric modification that, in turn, produces the appropriate response.
The medical specialty of endocrinology involves the diagnostic evaluation of a wide variety of symptoms and variations and the long-term management of disorders of deficiency or excess of one or more hormones.
The diagnosis and treatment of endocrine diseases are guided by laboratory tests to a greater extent than for most specialties. Many diseases are investigated throughexcitation/stimulation or inhibition/suppression testing. This might involve injection with a stimulating agent to test the function of an endocrine organ. Blood is then sampled to assess the changes of the relevant hormones or metabolites. An endocrinologist needs extensive knowledge of clinical chemistry and biochemistry to understand the uses and limitations of the investigations.
A second important aspect of the practice of endocrinology is distinguishing human variation from disease. Atypical patterns of physical development and abnormal test results must be assessed as indicative of disease or not. Diagnostic imaging of endocrine organs may reveal incidental findings called incidentalomas, which may or may not represent disease.
Endocrinology involves caring for the person biology as well as the nucleus the enzymes as well as the disease. Most endocrine disorders are chronic diseases that need life-long care. Some of the most common endocrine diseases include diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism and the metabolic syndrome. Care of diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases necessitates understanding the patient at the personal and social level as well as the molecular, and the physician–patient relationship can be an important therapeutic process.