Homeostatic imbalance occurs when the human body’s internal environmental variables become disturbed. The condition can be attributed to a number of factors which include the aging of the person’s organs and the organ’s control systems or feedback mechanisms, which can cause them to malfunction or not perform up to the standard that has been normal throughout the majority of the person’s lifetime. Homeostasis can also be disturbed when certain pathological situations are present in the body and overwhelm the controls and mechanisms that have been behaving in a healthy and life-sustaining manner. The stability of the homeostatic mechanism is achieved, for the most part, by a series of mechanisms that balance the input and output of signals, chemicals, and fluids. Most diseases can be at least partly attributed to the presence of homeostatic imbalance within the system.
The inefficiencies in homeostatic balance caused by the aging process are the main culprit in normal signs of aging like the breakdown of skin, the dulling of mental processes, and the decreased ability of the person to perform physical activity. In addition, the inevitable increases in homeostatic imbalance lead to many of the serious diseases associated with the aging population like diabetes, gout, and heart failure. In the example of heart failure, the negative feedback systems associated with heart and circulatory function are overwhelmed and destructive positive feedback mechanisms take over, contributing to the serious and sometimes fatal nature of the condition. Homeostatic control mechanisms control the imbalance of toxins in the bloodstream as well. When increased amounts of substances are introduced into the system and homeostatic imbalance is present, as in the example of gout, a buildup of toxic uric acid is the primary cause of the painful and chronic symptoms of the disease.
Another example of a pathology often contributing to homeostatic imbalance is diabetes mellitus, a condition that results from either the over-production or, in some cases, the hyper-activity, of the hormone insulin. When no homeostatic imbalance is present, the body is able to regulate its blood sugar levels efficiently. When diabetes mellitus is present, however, after a person has eaten a meal, the insulin needed for regulation is either totally absent or present in inadequate levels. Low or absent levels of insulin caused by dysfunction of the homeostatic mechanism make it harder for all cells in the body to absorb the hormone. When insulin is not absorbed, blood glucose levels can remain dangerously high.
In the case of this type of diabetes, as with other pathologies associated with homeostatic imbalance, medical intervention is often times needed to correct input and output ratios in order to restore balance. Gout can be treated with medications to reduce the buildup of uric acid. The common condition of dehydration is often times attributed to homeostatic imbalance as well, and is treated simply by introducing electrolyte-rich fluids back into the system to reestablish homeostasis.