Endocrine System: When studying for the exam

Yesterday I studied for my Endocrine System exam. I have decided that I simply cannot have a supplementary exam in January as

  1. I need actually to have a holiday in the short time provided
  2. I won’t be able to take too many textbooks home with the airlines’ baggage allowances for domestic flights

Endocrinology is supposedly the easiest module we do in second year, but I am not sure that I agree. The difficulty lies in the complexity of hormones and the fact that symptoms can be so non-specific. The volume is not so much though, which makes it easier.

I was hoping to diagnose myself with hypothyroidism, but it seems that weight gain, “depression”, tiredness and muscle weakness account for at least half of all possible endocrine disorders.

What I love about this system is that when it works, it works well.

It displays just how well the human body was designed to work.

It is pretty cool that Thyrotropin Releasing Hormone can be made in the hypophysis, travel to the pituitary gland, give rise to Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, which will eventually increase iodine absorption and stimulate the synthesis and release of thyroid hormones. [YES! I remember something!]

This means that if you suspect hypothyroidism, you actually have to look at more than just the thyroid for the cause. Hence the complexity.

Endocrinology explains a lot of interesting things.

For example, did you know that it has been proven that emotional deprivation and other psychological factors do cause growth retardation in children? My Kumar and Clark says so, and it is an excellent text book. The mechanism is not yet understood though.

Also, there is a rough formula for predicting the future height of your children:

The sucky thing about endocrine diseases is that they can be blamed for pretty much anything. Subfertility, erectile dysfunction and high blood pressure can all have endocrine-based aetiologies – but may all have other aetiologies too.

And if your hormones go haywire, you can have some pretty uncomfortable symptoms, like hirsutism (abnormal hair growth in areas that are sex-hormone-dependent) due to excess androgen production, goitre due to some thyroid conditions and eyes that seem to be bulging in Grave’s disease.

Did you know that premature thelarche is defined as breast development at the age of 2-4 and premature adrenarche is the development of pubic hair between the ages of 5-9? And hormone therapy does not even always postpone these symptoms until they are “socially acceptable”.

All these scary things can happen when the little chemical messengers in the body become rogue. Then I haven’t even mentioned the potentially fatal things like thyroid storm, Addison’s disease and space occupying lesions.

The good news for us all is that there is some form of treatment for most of these things. The good news for my study success (hopefully) is that in this module, most diseases’ treatments can be categorised under the headings

  1. Surgery
  2. Radiotherapy
  3. Medicine

And hopefully, with enough hard work, one day I’ll be a good enough doctor to notice these conditions in time and thus make my patients’ lives a little easier.

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