Endocrine Basics – Answers

1) What is a hormone?

A chemical messenger produced by a gland. Hormones are secreted by a gland, then travel through the blood stream to a specific target cell somewhere else in the body.


2) What’s the difference between and an exocrine and endocrine gland?

Exocrine: secretes their product through a duct (i.e. sweat glands, digestive enzymes).

Endocrine: secretes hormones directly into the blood stream.


3) What are the 7 primary endocrine glands in the body that secrete hormones? Don’t peek at question 4 until you’ve tried answering this question first!

Anterior Pituitary gland

Posterior Pituitary gland




Adrenal Medulla

Adrenal Cortex


4) Which hormones are secreted by which endocrine glands? Note: You might see some slight variations in this list depending on which textbook you are referring to, but the most important hormones will be bold on the answer sheet. Alternate names for the hormone are listed in parentheses. Bonus points for also knowing what the hormones do!

I. Anterior Pituitary gland

1)      Growth hormone (GH; Somatotropin)

a.       Promotes growth

2)      Thyroid Stimulating hormone (TSH, Thyrotropin)

a.       Tell Thyroid to release thyroid hormone

3)      Adrenocorticotropin (ACTH)

a.       Tells Adrenal cortex to secrete corticosteroids

4)      Gonadotropic hormones

a.       These are the reproductive hormones, and include Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), Luteinizing hormone (LH)

b.      You’re more likely to see a Maternity question about these hormones than a Med-Surg question.

5)      Melanocyte-stimulating hormone

a.       Has the effect of making skin darker

6)      Prolactin

a.       Milk production in lactating women

II. Posterior Pituitary gland

1)      Oxytocin

a.       Again, more important for Maternity questions than for Med-Surg. This hormone stimulates milk production and uterine contractions. The synthetic drug form is Pitocin (you know, the drug used to induce labor).

2)      Antidiuretic hormone (ADH, Vasopressin)

a.       Makes body retain water

b.      Causes vasoconstriction

III. Thyroid

1)      Thyroxine (T4)

a.       Gets turned into T3

2)      Triiodothyronine (T3)

a.       Controls cell metabolism and cell growth (and if your cells have a faster metabolism, you will too!)

3)      Calcitonin – Lowers blood levels of calcium by:

a.       Putting calcium and phosphorus back on bone (after all, that’s what bones are made of!)

b.      Stopping bone resorption (a fancy way of saying that if calcium is already on the bone, it stays there)

c.       Telling the kidneys to excrete calcium and phospherus

IV. Parathyroid

1)      Parathyroid hormone (PTH) – Increases blood levels of calcium

a.       Takes calcium and phosphorus OFF of the bone (aka “allows bone resorption)

b.      Make intestines absorb calcium better.

V. Pancreas

1)      Insulin

a.       Decrease blood sugar

2)      Glucagon

a.       Tells live to release Glycogen, which increases blood sugar

3)      Somatostatin

a.       Stops body (soma) growth

4)      Pancreatc polypeptide

VI. Adrenal Medulla

1)      Epinephrine (adrenaline)

a.       Stress hormone – always think Fight or Flight!!

2)      Norepinephrine

a.       Stress hormone – still thinking Fight or Flight!

VII. Adrenal Cortex

3)      Corticosteroids (including cortisol and hydrocortisone)

a.       Stress hormones

b.      (Notice these are steroids)

4)      Androgens (including testosterone, androsterone, and estrogen)

a.       Reproductive/Sex hormones

5)      Mineralcorticoids (including aldosterone)

a.       Tells kidneys retain sodium (and the water follows sodium)

b.      Tells kidneys to excrete potassium



5) Memorize all of the hormones listed in bold on the answer sheet, so that you can correctly state the hormone’s name(s), where the hormone comes from, and what it does.


Spending the time memorizing these hormones will make it easier to understand Endocrine diseases, which in turn will make it easier to answer NCLEX-style questions covering Endocrine topics.


One great way to memorize them is to rewrite the key hormones, glands, and function from memory over and over in outline form like in question #4. Then check your answers after each time you write them. The first time you write out what you remember, you probably won’t remember very much! The second time, you might remember some more information but forget other information. The more times you rewrite it, the more information you will begin to remember consistently, until you can quickly write all of the information in one try.


Don’t be fooled into thinking you can memorize it just by reading it over and over again…it won’t happen. Although it might temporarily seem like that method helps you memorize, in the long run you won’t be able to retain all that information.