Located at the base of the brain in a little bony cavity is the pituitary gland. It’s connected to the brain by a stalk called the hypothalamus. Collectively these organs produce many vital chemicals. They in turn influence the activity of all the other hormones in the body and for this reason have often been referred to as “the captain of the ship.”
In the neck, near the prominence in adults called the “Adam’s apple,” is the thyroid gland. This consists of two largish lobes, one on either side of the trachea or windpipe. These are joined at the front by a narrow band of tissue called the isthmus
It also produces a potent hormone called thyroxin. Too little or too much can, once again produce extremely important symptoms. Sometimes it goes crazy, swells up and forms a major lump in the neck called a goiter. You’ve often heard and probably seen these weird swellings. They appear quite unattractive.
A largish gland in the lower part of the neck is called the thymus. This plays an important part in children, but with increasing age it reduces in size and by adulthood has often almost entirely vanished. It, too, produces various vital elements, usually of major importance to the growing child.
Pancreas is located snugly sitting in the abdominal cavity. Its main claim to fame is diabetes if the cells are underactive. A great number of people suffer from this disorder, so the gland may play a vital part in the lifestyle of the patient for an entire lifetime.
They are called the adrenals, and there is one sitting atop each kidney. If disease occurs here, it may be very serious. Fortunately these are rare.
Of course in the pelvic region we have the sex glands. These are naturally different in boys and girls.
That’s right. The ovaries are the sex organs of the female; the testes the male counterpart. Each plays a highly significant role in both development and the life of the individual.
Actually it is an inherited disorder of metabolism. A baby may be born with this defect. If it’s not diagnosed early and adequate therapy undertaken, baby may develop into a mental defective, with terribly adverse and sad results. But fortunately, amazing steps have been taken in Australia. Nearly every PKU baby receives adequate treatment starting soon after birth, so serious effects are now very uncommon.
Below the ears on each side are the large parotid glands. These, together with the submaxillary glands located under the jaw, produce saliva. At times they may become inflamed from viral or bacterial invasions. Excessive salivation may occur. On rare occasions the ducts conveying the saliva into the oral cavity may become blocked.
One of the most common sites for viral invasion is the parotid glands (and less commonly the submaxillary glands). The virus producing mumps has a predilection for these glands, and it is a common childhood infection.
There are many lymphatic glands located under the jaw, and around the head and neck. They are all part of the body’s general lymphatic system. They are protective in nature, and help produce cells and antibodies aimed at quelling infective forces that enter the system.
For this reason they often swell and become palpable and tender, particularly when any infection sets in. Thus, sore throats, upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) and ulcers are notorious for producing discomfort in these important glands.
However, never forget that the reaction is a protective one, and this will help you bear them more philosophically. Generally they subside some days after the infection has settled and been overcome.
Gland Disorders Symptoms
There is no do-it-yourself home doctoring in the diagnosis and initial treatment of these endocrine disorders. We mention symptoms merely to alert the mother that all is not well, and that medical attention is necessary.
In the first instance she should take the child to her own family doctor for a check. If the doctor feels there is some anomaly, the child may be referred to an endocrine specialist, or one of the large endocrine units at a major public hospital where they have the full facilities to diagnose and treat such cases. Some are rare and hard to diagnose. Others are easier, and treatment is straightforward, and may often be carried out at home by the parent.