Endocrinologist: Your Diabetes, Thyroid & Hormone Specialist
What is an endocrinologist?
An endocrinologist specializes in diagnosing and treating hormone imbalances, diabetes, and other problems with your body’s endocrine glands. Endocrine glands include the thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas, ovaries, testicles, hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. An endocrinologist is a diabetes specialist, but also manages the complex health needs of adults with many other endocrine, metabolic or glandular conditions that often affect many body systems.
An endocrinologist typically:
Evaluates your medical history and past test results
Performs a physical exam
Orders and interprets laboratory tests, hormone tests, and imaging exams
Performs fine-needle aspirations
Prescribes medications and radiation therapy
Recommends surgery as needed
Endocrinology is a subspecialty of internal medicine. For doctors certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, the formal subspecialty is endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism. Endocrinologists may also be known by the following names: diabetes doctor, metabolic doctor, or hormone specialist.
Who should see an endocrinologist?
In most cases, people visit an endocrinologist when their primary care doctor refers them to one. The purpose of the referral is for an expert diagnosis or treatment of an endocrine problem. However, an endocrinologist is not a surgeon. If you need surgery, your endocrinologist will refer you to a surgeon.
If you require continuing care for an endocrine condition, your endocrinologist will let you know if you should continue to see him or her or return to your primary care doctor. In general, your primary care doctor can treat and manage uncomplicated hormonal disorders. For more complex hormonal conditions, your endocrinologist will most likely remain involved in your treatment.
When should you see an endocrinologist?
Consider seeking care from an endocrinologist under the following situations:
You are diagnosed with more than one endocrine problem or a complicated endocrine disorder.
You are looking for a second opinion about an endocrine diagnosis or treatment strategy.
You are newly diagnosed with an endocrine disease and require expert treatment recommendations.
You have an endocrine disorder that has been stable, but you are now having problems managing it.
You require an expert diagnosis for new symptoms of an endocrine disorder.
What does an endocrinologist treat?
An endocrinologist treats conditions and diseases that involve hormonal imbalances or other problems with your body’s endocrine glands. Hormones act as chemical messengers in your body. Because of this, hormone or gland problems affect many of your body’s systems and are often connected. These conditions include:
Hormone abuse including abuse of anabolic steroids, steroid precursors, supplements, and endocrine disruptors, such as estrogen blockers
Obesity and overweight including metabolic syndrome and weight problems related to thyroid, adrenal, ovarian, pituitary and insulin disorders
Pituitary disorders including benign tumors, growth problems, hypopituitarism (underactive pituitary), hyperprolactinemia (too much prolactin), and Cushing’s syndrome
Reproductive conditions including infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, erectile dysfunction, decreased sex drive, low testosterone, premature ovarian failure, menopause, and Klinefelter’s syndrome
What does an endocrinologist test?
An endocrinologist can order or perform a wide variety of diagnostic and screening tests for endocrine or hormonal health problems. These tests include:
Biopsies including fine-needle aspirations
Blood tests including hormone blood levels, blood chemistries, and blood glucose tests
Hormone tests including dexamethasone suppression tests, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation tests, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) stimulation tests, and oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT)
Urine tests including urinalysis and 24-hour urine collections
What procedures and treatments does an endocrinologist do?
Endocrinologists order or perform various procedures and treatments to manage hormonal conditions. If you need surgery, your endocrinologist will refer you to either a general surgeon or a specialized surgeon depending on your condition. Common endocrinology procedures and treatments include:
Counseling including behavior modification for obese and overweight patients
Diet including medical weight loss treatments and nutrition education
Exercise and fitness counseling including weight-bearing exercises and cardiovascular conditioning
Medications including hormonal therapy, hormone replacement, hormone blockers, vitamins, diabetes medications, insulin, targeted biologic therapies and cancer chemotherapies
Radiation including radioactive isotopes for hyperthyroidism, radiation therapy, and other applications
Recommendations and referrals for surgery including partial or full removal of an endocrine gland, weight loss surgery, and surgery to remove cancerous and noncancerous tumors
How do I choose an excellent endocrinologist?
To find a doctor with the right qualifications, look for an endocrinologist who is board certified in endocrinology. Board certification verifies that a doctor has completed an endocrinology residency and passed an exam verifying her expertise. A board-certified endocrinologist is an MD or DO who has completed subspecialty fellowship training and has earned certification in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism by the American Board of Internal Medicine or in endocrinology by the American Osteopathic Board of Internal Medicine. Both Boards require prior residency training and certification in internal medicine. To maintain board certification, an endocrinologist must participate in an ongoing certification program.
To set up an appointment with an experienced endocrinologist today, discover board-certified endocrinologists near you.
When you call a doctor’s office for information, ask about his expertise and success treating your particular condition. Some endocrinologists focus their practice on one or two endocrine system diseases and are highly skilled at treating them, such as:
Lipid and cholesterol disorders
Obesity and overweight
Pituitary gland disorders
If your child needs to see an endocrinologist, look for a board-certified pediatric endocrinologist. Pediatric endocrinology is a subspecialty of pediatrics.