What is the hormonal system?
Each gland makes one or more hormones. Each hormone has specific cells in the body it can influence. For some hormones, such as growth factor, that is pretty much all the cells in the body. For others, such as ADH, that is a small number - only particular cells in the kidney.
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 receptor cell then does something that it is ordered to do by the hormone. That something might be to grow faster, or to release another hormone, or to absorb sugar from the blood, or to withhold water from the kidneys, or one of many other important functions in the body.
In effect, the hormone system is the way in which one part of the body (the gland) tells another part of the body (the target cell) to do something important.
Find out more about the main endocrine glands and their hormones.
Medical conditions related 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.
The more common hormonal problems are:
- thyroid problems like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
- Cushing's syndrome
- some fertility problems
- congenital adrenal hyperplasia.
These are usually treated by controlling how much hormone your body makes. An endocrinologist (endocrine gland specialist) can help with appropriate testing and treatment.
Last reviewed: July 2015