Too much or too little of any hormone can be harmful to your body. For example, if the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone, a teen may grow excessively tall. If it produces too little, a teen may be unusually short. Doctors can often treat problems with the endocrine system by controlling the production of hormones or replacing certain hormones with medication.
Endocrine problems that can affect teens include:
Adrenal insufficiency. This condition occurs when the adrenal glands don't produce enough corticosteroids. The symptoms of adrenal insufficiency may include weakness, fatigue, abdominal pain, nausea, dehydration, and skin changes. Doctors treat adrenal insufficiency with medications to replace corticosteroid hormones.
Type 1 diabetes. When the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin, type 1 diabetes (previously known as juvenile diabetes) occurs. In kids and teens, type 1 diabetes is usually an autoimmune disorder, which means that some parts of the body's immune system attack and destroy the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin. To control their blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing diabetes problems, kids and teens with this condition need regular injections of insulin.
Type 2 diabetes. Unlike type 1 diabetes, in which the body can't produce normal amounts of insulin, in type 2 diabetes the body can't respond to insulin normally. Kids and teens with the condition tend to be overweight. Some kids and teens can control their blood sugar level with dietary changes, exercise, and oral medications, but many will need to take insulin injections like people with type 1 diabetes.
Growth hormone problems. Too much growth hormone in kids and teens who are still growing will make their bones and other body parts grow excessively. This rare condition (sometimes called gigantism) is usually caused by a pituitary tumor and can be treated by removing the tumor. The opposite can happen when a kid or teen has a pituitary glad that doesn't produce enough growth hormone. Doctors may treat these growth problems with medication.
Hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is a condition in which the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood are very high. In kids and teens, the condition is usually caused by Graves' disease, an immune system problem that causes the thyroid gland to become very active. Doctors may treat hyperthyroidism with medications, surgery, or radiation treatments.
Hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the levels of thyroid hormones in the blood are very low. Thyroid hormone deficiency slows body processes and may lead to fatigue, a slow heart rate, dry skin, weight gain, and constipation. Kids and teens with this condition may also grow more slowly and reach puberty at a later age. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is an immune system problem that often causes problems with the thyroid and blocks the production of thyroid hormone. Doctors often treat this problem with medication.
Precocious puberty. If the pituitary glands release hormones that stimulate the gonads to produce sex hormones too early, some kids may begin to go through puberty at a very young age. This condition is called precocious puberty. Kids and teens who are affected by precocious puberty can be treated with medication that will help them develop at a normal rate.