Endocrinology is a branch of medicine that deals with problems of the endocrine, or hormonal, system. Hormones are small proteinic molecules that are produced by specialized glands in the body and which traverse the body to pass “messages” to target organs to show a particular effect. Hormones help the body to regulate processes like appetite, breathing, growth, fluid balance, feminization and even weight control. In short, hormones are extremely important chemical entities of the body and a healthy hormonal system is of absolute necessity for a healthy body.
As sensitively balanced the endocrine system is, it is susceptible to imbalances due to a variety of reasons like environmental pollution, ingested toxic substances, genetic composition, etc. These factors may imbalance the hormonal system and create medical conditions like diabetes, acromegaly (overproduction of growth hormone leading to gigantism), hyper- and hypo-thyroidism (over- and under-active thyroid, respectively) and many more.
There are certain risk factors which make individuals susceptible to endocrine disorders. These include elevated cholesterol levels, a previous family history, poor diet, pregnancy, recent trauma or surgery.
Most cases are symptomless and do not require any treatment. But when there is severe over- or under-production of hormones, symptoms may arise and that is when medical intervention is required. Endocrinologists are physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating endocrine dysfunctions.
If proper medical intervention is not sought, over time, due to unbalanced hormonal levels, complications may arise which can be life threatening. Some complications are anxiety or insomnia, coma, depression, heart disease, nerve damage, organ failure, etc.
In India, a large number of individuals are reported to be affected by endocrine imbalances. This might be due to a wide variety of reasons, including an unhealthy lifestyle, mostly in urban areas. Psychological stress, poor diet and irregular sleep patterns may exacerbate underlying problems into full blown medical problems.
Endocrinologists in major Indian cities like Bangalore and Chennai have been reporting a steady rise in the number of patients who visit them for one or the other endocrine related problem. Mostly from urban areas, these patients are young and working and yet have fallen prey to hormonal imbalances due to a hectic and unhealthy lifestyle.
The scenario is not different in many other major Indian cities and young people need to be educated in the virtues and advantages of leading a balanced, relaxed and healthy lifestyle, which can go a long way in reducing their risk of such hormonal disorders.