Medical Terminology for Common Endocrine Conditions and Pathology

By Beverley Henderson, Jennifer Lee Dorsey

You will need to know medical terminology for endocrine conditions and pathology. Most conditions associated with the endocrine system present more than just a common nuisance or annoyance. Effects like extreme weight gain or weight loss, extreme height issues, and even renal (kidney) failure are not uncommon when it comes to endocrine conditions.

Many of these common conditions are results of either glandular underactivity or overactivity. Many are also a result of a more serious endocrine disease, such as diabetes.

Here are some pathological conditions that pertain to the pituitary gland:

  • Acromegaly: Enlargement of the extremities due to hyperfunctioning of the pituitary gland after puberty

  • Dwarfism: Congenital hyposecretion of growth hormone resulting in short stature and altered body proportions

  • Gigantism: Hyperfunctioning of the pituitary gland before puberty, resulting in abnormal overgrowth of the body

  • Hypophysitis: Inflammation of the hypophysis (stalk of the pituitary)

  • Panhypopituitarism: Generalized insufficiency of pituitary hormones

Moving on to the thyroid, many of the following conditions involve both size of the gland as well as its output:

  • Cretinism: Extreme hypothyroidism during infancy and childhood; results in decreased IQ, among other things

  • Euthyroid: Condition of having a normal thyroid

  • Exophthalmos: Abnormal protrusion of eyeballs

  • Goiter or thyromegaly: Abnormal enlargement of thyroid

  • Graves’ disease: Autoimmune disorder that results in overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism)

  • Hashimoto’s thyroiditis: A progressive autoimmune thyroiditis (lymphocytic invasion of the thyroid gland) with developing goiter; leads to hypothyroidism and sometimes precedes Graves’ disease; also called chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis

  • Hyperparathyroidism: Excessive production of the parathyroid hormone

  • Hyperthyroidism: Overactivity of the thyroid gland

  • Hypoparathyroidism: Deficient production of parathyroid hormone

  • Hypothyroidism: Underactivity of the thyroid gland

  • Myxedema: Advanced hypothyroidism in adulthood

  • Thyroiditis: Inflammation of the thyroid gland

Next is the parathyroid, with an odd mix of conditions affecting calcium and, of all things, your wrists. Take a look:

  • Hypercalcemia: Abnormally high levels of calcium

  • Hypocalcemia: Abnormally low levels of calcium

  • Tetany: A neurological disorder resulting in spasms of a muscle; usually marked by sharp flexion of wrists or ankle joints, most often affects extremities

The adrenals are next on the checklist of conditions. Remember that these glands have one primary function: to produce hormones. So, if these are out of whack, so is your entire body.

  • Adrenal virilism: Excessive output of adrenal androgens

  • Adrenopathy: Disease of the adrenals

Now it’s time to talk about the pancreas. In the case of the endocrine system, some common conditions can affect the performance of this gland of many talents. They are

  • Acidosis: Abnormal condition characterized by reduced alkalinity of the blood and of the body tissues

  • Hyperglycemia: Abnormally high sugar in the blood

  • Hypoglycemia: Abnormally low sugar in the blood

  • Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas

Conditions of the gonads can be troublesome and can cause some problematic side effects, such as heavy or irregular periods and ovarian cysts for women and erectile dysfunction for men. Discussing these conditions, in particular, requires a level of sensitivity.

  • Gynecomastia: Excessive breast development in a male

  • Hypergonadism: Excessive secretion of hormones by sex glands

  • Hypogonadism: Deficient secretion of hormones by sex glands

Now, it’s time for the potpourri of conditions. Many of these occur as a result of a more serious pathological disease, and some involve too much or too little of a specific substance in your body.

  • Diabetes insipidus: Insufficient secretion of the antidiuretic hormone vasopressin; causes the kidney tubules to fail to reabsorb needed water and salt

  • Diabetic nephropathy: Destruction of kidneys, causing renal insufficiency requiring hemodialysis or renal transplantation

  • Homeostasis: Tendency in an organ to return to equilibrium or constant stable state

  • Hyperkalemia: Excessive amounts of potassium in blood

  • Hyponatremia: Deficient amount of sodium in the blood

  • Hyperparathyroidism: A condition of excess parathyroid hormone secretion, whether from tumor, genetic condition, or medication

  • Ketoacidosis: A primary complication of diabetes mellitus; fats are improperly burned leading to an accumulation of ketones in the body

  • Polyuria: Excessive urination

  • Polydipsia: Excessive thirst

One of the most common of these diseases is diabetes, which affects millions of people of all ages. Not only does diabetes affect the function of the body, it greatly affects a person’s everyday habits. To manage the disease, one typically has to alter the diet and often take medications or insulin injections.

The official name of diabetes is Diabetes mellitus, which means there is a lack of insulin secretion from the pancreas.

There are two major types of diabetes mellitus:

  • Type 1 diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) or juvenile or child onset diabetes; it is often seen in children. It involves the destruction of the cells of the islets of Langerhans with complete deficiency of insulin in the body. Daily insulin injections are necessary.

  • Type 2 diabetes is also called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult-onset diabetes; are common factors. The islets of Langerhans are not destroyed, and there is deficiency of insulin secretion which causes insulin resistance in the body. Treatment includes diet, weight reduction, exercises, and if necessary, insulin or oral hypoglycemic drugs.

Some of the other serious pathological endocrine diseases affect the thyroid and the adrenal glands:

  • Addison’s disease is hypofunctioning of the adrenal cortex. Glucocorticoids are produced in deficient amounts. Hypoglycemia, excretions of large amounts of water and salt, weakness, and weight loss are symptoms of this condition. Treatment consists of daily cortisone administration and intake of salts.

  • Cushing’s disease involves hyperfunctioning of the adrenal cortex with increased glucocorticoid secretions. Hyperplasia of the adrenal cortex results from excessive stimulation of the gland by ACTH. Obesity, moon-like fullness of the face, excessive deposition of fat on the back called “buffalo hump,” and high blood pressure are produced by excessive secretions of the adrenal steroid.

  • Thyroid carcinoma is cancer of the thyroid gland.