Hypothalamus is the head of all endocrine glands. It coordinates the functions of all endocrine glands in the body. The endocrine glands secrete their hormones (chemical messengers) directly into the blood. The hypothalamus controls a variety of body functions and hormones. Damage to the hypothalamus, whether at birth or acquired, will lead to significant health issues. Such as:
- Diabetes insipidus: A condition associated with passing large amounts of urine, but blood sugars are normal. A chemical called vasopressin is released from the hypothalamus. This vasopressin regulates the water reabsorption in the kidneys. In the absence of vasopressin, the reabsorption process does not take place, thus inducing rapid water loss from the body.
- Insomnia: A part of the hypothalamus sets our sleep-wake cycle.
- Fluctuations in body temperature
- Hypothalamic obesity: Damage to the hypothalamus can affect the centers of appetite regulation, which results in uninhibited eating disorders. Obesity can lead to various conditions like:
- Hypopituitarism: It occurs when the pituitary glands do not produce sufficient hormones due to loss of control by the hypothalamus. Various hormones generated by the hypothalamus directly affect those created by the pituitary gland. Hypopituitarism can lead to:
- Sex gland deficiency: This can lead to:
What is the hypothalamus?
Hypothalamus is a coordinating center of the endocrine system. The hypothalamus is responsible for balancing the body’s internal function. It helps to regulate:
- Appetite and weight
- Body temperature
- Emotions, behavior, and memory
- Production of breast milk
- Salt and water balance
- Sex drive
- Sleep-wake cycle and the body clock
Damage to the hypothalamus or the hypothalamic function, whether congenital or acquired, may cause significant health issues.
What are the causes of hypothalamic dysfunction?
There are several causes of hypothalamic dysfunction, which include:
- Head injury
- Anorexia (eating disorders)
- Extreme weight loss
- Aneurysm (a weak area in the wall of the blood vessel that causes its bulging)
- Pituitary apoplexy (rare, serious condition of the pituitary gland)
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the area between the brain and the meninges)
- Prader-Willi syndrome (a congenital disorder that results in uninhibited eating)
- Kallmann syndrome (a condition characterized by delayed or absent puberty and an impaired sense of smell)
- Infections due to certain immune system disorders
What are the symptoms of hypothalamic dysfunction?
The symptoms of hypothalamic dysfunction depend on the part of the hypothalamus affected and the types of hormones involved. The symptoms that could indicate a hypothalamic dysfunction include:
- Lack of interest in activities (anhedonia)
- Loss of vision
- Unusually high or low blood pressure
- Frequent thirst
- Body temperature fluctuations
- Unexplained weight gain or loss
- Changes in appetite
- Short stature
- Delayed onset of puberty
- Frequent urination
- Inability to feed the baby
- Symptoms of hypothyroidism (constipation, puffy face, weight gain, mood swings)
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Myles IA. Fast Food Fever: Reviewing the Impacts of the Western Diet on Immunity. Nutr J. Published online June 17, 2014. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-13-61
University of Florida Health. Hypothalamic Dysfunction. https://ufhealth.org/hypothalamic-dysfunction