What is the hormonal system?
The hormonal system (also called the endocrine system) is a network of glands and organs in the body that produce hormones.
Hormones are important for almost all cells in the body to work. They influence your metabolism, growth and many other functions.
You have a number of glands that produce hormones, including the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, the pineal gland, the thyroid gland, the parathyroid glands, the adrenal glands, the pancreas, ovaries and testes.
Each gland makes one or more hormones. Some hormones influence almost all cells in the body. Others only influence a small number of cells in specific organs.
How does the hormonal system work?
When a hormone is released from a gland, it travels through the body. It passes by most cells, but eventually reaches its target.
When it reaches its target, it attaches to a particular type of cell, known as a receptor cell. The hormone then tells the receptor cell to do something. It can make cells grow faster, release another hormone, absorb sugar from the blood, withhold water from the kidneys, or one of many other important functions in the body.
Find out more about the main endocrine glands and their hormones.
What medical conditions relate to the hormonal system?
The hormonal system can go wrong. Glands might produce too many or too few hormones, or the target cells might stop responding properly to the hormones.
Some common hormonal problems are:
- thyroid problems like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
- Cushing's syndrome
- some fertility problems
- congenital adrenal hyperplasia
These problems are usually treated by controlling how much hormone your body makes. An endocrinologist (endocrine gland specialist) can help diagnose and treat the problem.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: July 2019