is an Endocrinologist?
An endocrinologist is a specially
trained medical doctor. Endocrinologists diagnose
diseases that affect your glands. They
know how to treat conditions which are
often complex and involve many systems
within your body. Your primary care
doctor refers you to an endocrinologist
when you have a problem with your endocrine
What do Endocrinologists do?
Endocrinologists are trained to diagnose
and treat hormone problems by helping
to restore the normal balance of hormones
in your body system. Endocrinologists conduct
basic research to learn the way glands
work, and clinical research to learn
the best methods to treat patients.
Endocrinologists develop new drugs and
treatments for hormone problems. Endocrinologists
take care of many conditions including:
- cancers of the endocrine glands
- cholesterol (lipid) disorders
- lack of growth
- metabolic disorders
- over or under production of hormones
- thyroid diseases
What Type of Medical Training do Endocrinologists
Endocrinologists finish four years of
medical school and then spend three
or four years in an internship and residency
program. These specialty programs cover
internal medicine, pediatrics, or obstetrics
and gynecology. They spend two or three
more years learning how to diagnose
and treat hormone conditions. Overall,
an endocrinologist's training will take
more than 10 years.
What are the Most Common Endocrine
Diseases and Disorders?
Endocrine diseases and disorders can
be grouped into several different areas.
Some endocrinologists focus on one or
two areas, such as diabetes, pediatric
disorders, thyroid, or reproductive
and menstrual disorders. Others work
in all areas of endocrinology. The major
areas of endocrinology are described
Patients with diabetes have too much
sugar in their blood. Recent studies
have found that controlling blood sugar
helps prevent serious problems that
can be caused by diabetes. These can
include problems with the eyes, kidneys
and nerves, which can lead to blindness,
dialysis, or amputation. Endocrinologists
treat diabetes with diet and medications,
including insulin. They also work closely
with patients to control blood sugar
and monitor them so they can prevent
Patients with thyroid disorders often
have problems with their energy levels.
They may also have problems with muscle
strength, emotions, weight control,
and tolerating heat or cold. Endocrinologists
treat patients with too much or too
little thyroid hormone. They help patients
reach a hormone balance by replacing
or blocking thyroid hormone. Endocrinologists
also receive special training to manage
patients with thyroid growths or thyroid
cancer, and enlarged thyroid glands.
Osteomalacia (rickets), which causes
bones to soften, and osteoporosis are
bone diseases that endocrinologists
diagnose and treat. Osteoporosis is
a disease that weakens your skeleton.
Certain hormones act to protect bone
tissue. When hormone levels are abnormal,
bones can lose calcium and weaken. Menopause,
loss of testicle function, and aging
may put you at risk for bone fractures.
Endocrinologists treat other disorders
that can affect bones, such as too much
parathyroid hormone and long term use
of steroids like prednisone.
About one in ten American couples
are infertile. Endocrine research has
helped thousands of couples to have
children. Endocrinologists diagnose
and treat hormone imbalances that can
cause infertility, and also assess and
treat patients with reproductive problems.
They work with patients who need hormone
replacement. Problems that they treat
include menopause symptoms, irregular
periods, endometriosis, poly cystic ovary
syndrome (PCOS), premenstrual syndrome,
Obesity and Overweight
Endocrinologists treat patients who
are overweight or obese, sometimes because
of metabolic and hormonal problems.
When someone is obese they have too
much body fat. Thyroid, adrenal, ovarian,
and pituitary disorders can cause obesity.
Endocrinologists also identify factors
linked with obesity, such as insulin
resistance and genetic problems.
The pituitary is often called the
master gland of the body because it
controls other glands. The pituitary
makes several important hormones. Over
- or under - production of pituitary
hormones can lead to infertility, menstrual
disorders, growth disorders (acromegaly
or short stature) and too much cortisol
production (Cushing's syndrome). Endocrinologists
control these conditions with medications
and refer patients who need surgery.
Children and adults can have effects
from not making enough growth hormone.
Pediatric endocrinologists treat children
who suffer from endocrine problems that
cause short stature and other growth
disorders. Adults with growth hormone
deficiency can experience emotional
distress and fatigue. Safe and effective
growth hormone replacement therapy is
available for people whose growth hormone
Hypertension is high blood pressure,
and it is a risk factor for heart disease.
Up to 10% of people have hypertension
because of too much aldosterone, a hormone
produced in the adrenal glands. About
half of these cases are caused by growths
that can be removed with surgery. Conditions
such as the metabolic syndrome or a
rare adrenal growth called a pheochromocytoma
also may cause hypertension. These conditions
also can be treated successfully.
Patients with lipid disorders have
trouble maintaining normal levels of
body fats. One of the most common lipid
disorders is hyperlipidemia - high levels
of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein
cholesterol (known as "bad"
cholesterol), and/or triglycerides in
the blood. High levels of these fats
are linked to heart (coronary) disease,
strokes, and peripheral vascular disease
(problems with circulation in the legs).
Endocrinologists are trained to detect
factors that may be related to lipid
disorders, such as hypothyroidism, drug
use (such as steroids), or genetic or
metabolic conditions. Lipid disorders
can be found in several conditions that
require special management, including
the metabolic syndrome, poly cystic ovary
syndrome (PCOS), and obesity. Special
diets, exercise, and medications may
be prescribed to manage hyperlipidemia
and other lipid disorders.