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Disorders of the Glands

The complex process through which food is converted into energy and waste is known as metabolism. Substances ingested into the system are broken down into simpler parts, shuffled around and then recombined into new substances that maintain life. For example, the carbohydrates that we ingest are broken down by the enzymes and acids and converted into glucose or pure sugar. Metabolism is controlled by certain glands in the body known as endocrine glands. The function of these glands is to secrete into the blood substances which act as catalysts. One of the endocrine glands, the pancreas, for example, not only pours digestive secretions into the digestive system but also pours out insulin which converts the sugar that we take into energy. If there is a slowing down or stoppage of the activity of the pancreas, sugar is not converted into energy and the blood and urine sugar levels go up, the primary symptoms of diabetes.

The main endocrine glands are: (i) the thyroid; (ii) the adrenal glands; (iii) the pituitary glands; (iv) the parathyroid glands; (v) the pancreas; and (vi) the ovaries among the females and testicles among the males. These glands tend to interact and keep the balance of the body, the disturbance of which leads to myriads of disorders. We shall discuss some of the diseases caused by the malfunctioning of these glands. It should be noted here, however, that the disorders of the glands are not easy to deal with and any serious fault in their functioning requires expert medical attention. For example, if the thyroid gland is enlarged or its defective functioning leads to myoedema (a disease characterised by a swollen and degenerative condition of the subcutaneous and connective tissues throughout the body) the condition cannot be helped by home remedies. Similarly, the enlargement of the prostate gland, once it has fully developed, can be handled only through surgery.

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