Who is an endocrinologist?
An endocrinologist is a specialist doctor who treats imbalances of hormones or the endocrine system of the body. An endocrinologist is trained for almost two to three years in endocrinology after completing four years of medical schooling and three years of post-graduation in internal medicine.
Hormones are secreted by the endocrine glands of the body. Different hormones have different actions. Each hormone acts on a specific body part. They help in the growth and development of the body and regulate various bodily functions. Some hormones help in your growth and development, some help in regulating your blood pressure and temperature, and others help a woman to conceive or become pregnant.
Hormones play an indirect yet crucial role in your
Endocrinology is a branch of the medical field that deals with diseases related to hormones and the glands that secrete them (endocrine glands). The glands that secrete the hormones include:
- Pancreas: A gland located in your abdomen that makes insulin and glucagon.
- Thyroid: A butterfly-shaped gland in your neck that controls your metabolism, energy, and brain growth and development.
- Pituitary gland: A pea-sized gland located at the base of your brain that controls all the other hormones.
- Adrenal glands: A pair of glands, one on each side of the abdomen, located on the top of your kidneys. They exert control on your blood pressure, metabolism, stress response, and sex hormones.
- Parathyroid glands: Four small glands in your neck that control the level of calcium in your blood.
- Hypothalamus: A small gland located at the base of your brain that controls body temperature, hunger, and thirst.
- Ovaries: Reproductive glands (gonads) in females that contain eggs.
- Testes: Reproductive glands (gonads) in males that contain sperms.
- Pineal gland: A gland found near the center of the brain that may be linked to sleep patterns.
- Thymus: A gland in the upper part of your chest that helps in the development of the body’s immune system during the early stages of your life.
What type of diseases does an endocrinologist treat?
An endocrinologist treats diseases due to the imbalance of hormones in the body. Endocrine diseases may be either due to an increase or decrease in the production or secretion of hormones.
The most common diseases treated by an endocrinologist include:
Other diseases that an endocrinologist treats include:
- Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD)
- Addison’s disease (deficiency of hormones in adrenal glands)
- Cushing’s syndrome (excessive production of the hormone cortisol which leads to weight gain and puffy face)
- Gigantism (a child whose bones and body parts grow abnormally fast)
- Dwarfism (abnormally short stature)
- Certain cancers of the endocrine glands
Why would someone see an endocrinologist?
You would be referred to an endocrinologist by your family doctor, or you can visit him/her on your own if you have the following signs:
- You are a diabetic and
- You have abnormalities found in your thyroid blood tests
- You have developed brittle bones (osteoporosis)
- You are a female with irregular periods
- If you have a short stature that does not match your age
- Usually, mothers approach the endocrinologist for this problem in their children during puberty.
- You suffer from excessive hair loss (alopecia)
- You are a male whose breast size is increasing (gynecomastia)
What tests are used by an endocrinologist?
Your endocrinologist will ask you a lot of questions that may seem irrelevant to you, but these are necessary because an endocrine disease affects the whole body.
Several tests usually asked for by an endocrinologist include:
- Blood sugar level
- Complete blood count
- Kidney function test
- Liver function test
- Thyroid function tests
- Thyroid antibodies test including thyroid peroxidase (TPO) antibodies
- Cortisol level
- Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) level
- Prolactin level
- Testosterone level
- The doctor may order a urine sugar test if you have diabetes.
Your endocrinologist may order the following radiological tests to ascertain his diagnosis:
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Symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis may include dry skin, fatigue, weight gain, feeling cold, excessive sleepiness, dry skin, dry coarse hair, difficulty swallowing, a lump in the front of the throat, muscle cramps, mood changes, vague aches and pains, problems concentrating, leg swelling, constipation, and depression.
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Hyperthyroidism is an excess of thyroid hormone due to an overactive thyroid gland. Symptoms can include increased heart rate, weight loss, heart palpitations, frequent bowel movements, depression, fatigue, fine or brittle hair, sleep problems, thinning skin, and irregular vaginal bleeding.
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