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Endocrine System Function and Treatment: Medical Terminology

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Endocrine System Function and Treatment Health Literacy

Knowledge and understanding of the medical terminology pertaining to some of the more important concepts involving endocrine system function and treatment which impacts it is an important aspect of health literacy. It can also aid in understanding information regarding your health and health care.  Listed below are medical terms and definitions pertaining to some of those concepts. To augment your learning experience you can hear the medical pronunciation of the terms in bold font in the chronological order in which they appear. Just click the play button below.

Medical Terminology


Adrenal suppression – It is a state of the adrenal glands not secreting enough endocrine system functioncortisol, even though the problem did not originate in the glands. The source is a medication which causes the pituitary gland to decrease its production of ACTH.  The reasons for the decreased cortisol secretion are twofold. First of all stimulation of the adrenal glands by ACTH is necessary for them to produce glucocorticoids. Therefore if the amount of ACTH circulating in the blood stream is low the adrenal glands produce less cortisol. Secondly, over time the adrenal glands begin to atrophy (shrink) in the absence of normal amounts of ACTH. That change within the glands thus, causes them to be less response to even normal amounts of ACTH. The medications that cause suppression of the gland are usually man-made (synthetic) corticosteroids but a few other classes of medicines can also cause it. The condition most frequently is the result of medication taken by mouth, but those administered by needle, inhaler, or through the nose can also cause it. The period of time it takes for suppression to occur depends on the dose and potency of the medication.  There is no steadfast rule, but in general patients and doctors should anticipate adrenal suppression if the equivalent of at least 30 mg of cortisol per day has been in use for 3 weeks. The decreased production of cortisol due to adrenal suppression by medication this termed iatrogenic adrenal insufficiency because iatrogenic means caused by a doctor’s actions or treatment.  

Corticosteroids – it is any of the glucocorticoids or their synthetic (man-made) equivalents which the adrenal glands produce other than mineralocorticoids. The Latin derivation of the word means steroids of the cortex. Many refer to them as just steroids. But it should be borne in mind that there are many other types of steroids such as sex hormones and growth hormone.  

Glucagon – It is a hormone which the pancreas produces whose effects tend to be opposite insulin in that it tends to raise the blood sugar. The primary means are

  • The stimulation of gluconeogenesis

Gluconeogenesis – It is the breakdown in the liver of protein and amino acids into glucose as an energy source.

Glycogen – It is the chief stored form of glucose in the liver.

Glycogenolysis – It is the breakdown of glycogen in the liver to glucose as an energy source.

Insulin – It is a hormone which the beta islet cells of the pancreas produce. It has a number of actions, the chief of which is the stimulation of various cells to absorb glucose for use as a source of energy. Those cells include muscle, fat and various other types.

Some of the other important actions of insulin include the following:

  • Stimulation of the liver to store glucose in the form of glycogen
  • Stimulation of the formation of fatty acids in the liver from left over glucose following peak glycogen synthesis
  • Inhibition of the breakdown of fat in adipose tissue into glucose
  • Inhibition of the breakdown of glycogen into glucose
  • inhibition of the breakdown of protein and other non-carbohydrate sources in the liver into glucose
  • Stimulation of amino acid uptake for anabolism
  • Stimulates the uptake of potassium, phosphorus and magnesium by cells

The net effect of many of those actions is to keep blood sugar from rising too high and to assist the body in using other energy sources if glucose is insufficient.

Secretion – Is the production and release of a hormone.




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