What is the hippothalamus?
Hippothalamus is a small area in the brain that is located underneath the thalamus and above the pituitary gland. Regardless of the size, hippothalamus is responsible for various primary roles in the body.
Functions of the hypothalamus
The primary function of hypothalamus is creating and maitaining homeostasis, which is the normal, balanced state of inside the body.
To achieve this homeostasis, the hypothalamus connects the two important communication systems- endocrine and nervous systems, promoting them to secrete hormones that govern physiologic functions, including:
- Body temperature
- Thirst, hunger
- Sleep cycles
- Sex drive
- Blood pressure and heart rate
- Digestive juicesproduction
- Bodily fluids balance
The process can be explained as through signals sent to the brain from different areas of the body, the hypothalamus knows whether or not the balance is being achieved. If not, the hypothalamus releases the appropriate hormones into the bloodstream to help the body regain homeostasis back.
For example, if the hypothalamus receives messages that the internal temperature of the body is too hot, it will promote sweating. On the other hand, if it is informed that the temperature is too cold, it will make the body shiver to create some heat.
Hormones of the hypothalamus
Together with the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus controls the entire endocrine system, including adrenal glands, kidneys, and thyroid that produce many hormones in the body.
Hormones secreted by the hypothalamus include:
- Antidiuretic hormone: which increases the amount of water absorbed into the blood via the kidneys
- Corticotropin-releasing hormones: which help regulate metabolism and immune response
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormones: which tells the pituitary gland to secrete hormones that maintain functions of sexual organs
- Oxytocin: which is involved in several processes, including the breast milk production, body temperature regulation, and sleep cycles control
- Prolactin-controlling hormones: which tells the pituitary gland to start or stop the breast milk production in breastfeeding mothers
- Thyrotropin-releasing hormone: which activates the thyroid functioning, leading to the releases of hormones that regulate metabolism, energy levels, and developmental growth
Ghypothalamus also directly affects rowth hormones.
Disorders that make the hypothalamus no longer functions properly are considered hypothalamic diseases.
Causes of hpothalamus disorders
Injuries to the head can result in impact or damage to the hypothalamus and they are the most common cause of hypothalamic diseases.
Physical injuries also include surgeries, radiation and tumors. Other times, genetic factors can be the cause of hypothalamic disease.
Other causes of hypothalamic disease may be:
- Eating disorders
- A hihg saturated fat diet
- Genetic disorders which lead to excess iron buildup in the body
- Excessive bleeding
Symptoms of hypothalamus disorders
Symptoms vary depending on the causes of the disorders as well as which hormones are absent. In children, signs include abnormal growth and abnormal puberty.
If the disease is caused by tumors, symptoms may include blurred vision, loss of vision, and headaches. If the disease results from low adrenal function, symptoms produced are weakness and dizziness. If the disorder is caused by an overactive thyroid gland, symptoms can be:
- Sensitivity to cold
- Erectile dysfunction
- Hair loss
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Lower mental capacity
- Weight gain
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: October 9, 2017 | Last Modified: September 11, 2019