Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders

Endocrine disorders involve the body’s over- or under-production of certain hormones, while metabolic disorders affect the body’s ability to process certain nutrients and vitamins. Endocrine disorders include hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, diseases of the parathyroid gland, diabetes mellitus, diseases of the adrenal glands (including Cushing’s syndrome and Addison’s disease), and ovarian dysfunction (including polycystic ovarian syndrome), among others. Some examples of metabolic disorders include cystic fibrosis, phenylketonuria (PKU), hyperlipidemia, gout, and rickets.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common endocrine disorders among women of reproductive age. PCOS is the most common cause of endocrine-related female infertility in the United States. An estimated 1 in 10 women of childbearing age has PCOS, and it can occur in females as young as 11 years of age. In addition, PCOS may put women at risk for other health conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.1

Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism are also common endocrine disorders. In 2005–2006, women were more likely than men to report having ever been told by a health professional that they have a thyroid problem (16.4 versus 3.4 percent). Among women, rates varied by race and ethnicity. Non-Hispanic Whites were most likely to report a thyroid problem (18.5 percent), compared to non-Hispanic Blacks (10.7 percent), and Hispanics (9.2 percent).

In 2005, the rate of physician visits due to endocrine and metabolic disorders varied by sex. Nearly 4 per 100 physician visits made by men were for a disorder of an endocrine gland other than the thyroid gland, compared to 3.1 per 100 visits made by women. Similarly, 2.9 per 100 visits made by men were due to a metabolic disorder, versus 2.0 per 100 visits among women. Women, however, had twice the rate of visits due to disorders of the thyroid gland than men (1.5 versus 0.7 per 100 visits).

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health, National Women’s Health Information Center. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). [online] April 2007. http://www.4women.gov/faq/pcos.htm#b, accessed 02/22/08.

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