Pediatric Endocrinologist: Your Expert in Juvenile Diabetes & Growth Disorders

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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What is a pediatric endocrinologist?

Pediatric endocrinologists specialize in diagnosing and treating hormone imbalances and other problems with your child’s endocrine glands. Endocrine glands include the thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas, ovaries or testicles, hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. Pediatric endocrinologists understand how growth and development influence endocrine problems. Pediatric endocrinologists specialize in managing the unique health needs of children and teens with endocrine or glandular conditions, such as diabetes, growth disorders, and reproductive system problems.

A pediatric endocrinologist typically: 

  • Evaluates your child’s medical history and past test results

  • Performs a physical exam

  • Orders and interprets laboratory tests, hormone tests, and imaging exams

  • Performs fine-needle aspirations

  • Diagnoses and treats diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, growth problems, puberty problems, bone problems, thyroid disorders, and endocrine cancer

  • Prescribes medications and radiation therapy

  • Recommends surgery as needed

Pediatric endocrinologists may also be known by the following names: children’s endocrinologist and children’s diabetes doctor.

Who should see a pediatric endocrinologist?

In most cases, your child’s pediatrician will refer you to a pediatric endocrinologist for care. The purpose of the referral is for an expert diagnosis or treatment of an endocrine problem. However, a pediatric endocrinologist is not a surgeon. If your child needs surgery, you will need to see a surgeon.

Children are not small adults. Their medical and emotional needs are different from adults’ needs. This is especially true for children dealing with growth or sexual development disorders. Your child may benefit from seeing an experienced pediatric endocrinologist because these doctors are specially trained to deal with the unique needs of children with hormonal or endocrine disorders.

Endocrine or hormone problems are usually lifelong conditions. At some point, your child will most likely need to transition from a pediatric endocrinologist to an adult endocrinologist. In general, you should start this transition process during your child’s teenage years. Talk with your pediatric endocrinologist for specific recommendations about this transition.

When should you see a pediatric endocrinologist?

Consider seeking care from a pediatric endocrinologist under the following situations: 

  • You are looking for a second opinion about your child’s endocrine diagnosis or treatment strategy.

  • Your child has an endocrine disorder that has been stable, but he or she is now having problems managing it.

  • Your child is diagnosed with more than one endocrine problem, or complex or complicated endocrine disorders.

  • Your child is newly diagnosed with an endocrine disease and requires expert treatment recommendations.

  • Your child requires an expert diagnosis for new symptoms of an endocrine disorder.

What conditions and diseases does a pediatric endocrinologist treat?

A pediatric endocrinologist treats conditions and diseases that involve hormonal imbalances or other problems with your child’s endocrine glands. Hormones act as chemical messengers in the human body. Because of this, hormone or gland problems can affect many body systems and are often connected. In children, these conditions include:

  • Adrenal disorders including hypoadrenalism (underactive adrenals), hyperadrenalism (overactive adrenals), and congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH)

  • Bone disorders including osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease), osteomalacia (rickets), McCune-Albright syndrome, low bone mass, and frequent fractures

  • Diabetes including type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and prediabetes

  • Disorders of sex development (DSD) including ambiguous genitals, Klinefelter syndrome, Kallmann syndrome, and Turner syndrome

  • Endocrine gland cancers including thyroid cancer, pancreatic cancer, adrenal cancer, and pituitary cancer

  • Growth disorders including acromegaly, gigantism, growth hormone deficiency, and short stature

  • Obesity and overweight including metabolic syndrome and weight problems related to thyroid, adrenal, ovarian, pituitary and insulin disorders

  • Pituitary disorders including hypopituitarism (underactive pituitary) and hyperpituitarism (overactive pituitary)

  • Reproductive system and puberty problems including irregular menses, polycystic ovarian syndrome, female masculinization, low testosterone, early puberty, and delayed puberty

  • Thyroid disorders including hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid), hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), and goiter

What tests does a pediatric endocrinologist perform or order?

A pediatric endocrinologist can order or perform a wide variety of diagnostic and screening tests, including:

  • Biopsies including fine-needle aspirations and skin biopsies

  • Blood tests including hormone blood levels, blood chemistries, blood glucose tests, and chromosome tests

  • Hormone tests including growth hormone secretion tests, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) stimulation tests, dexamethasone suppression tests, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation tests, corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) stimulation tests, and oral glucose tolerance tests (OGTT)

  • Imaging exams including radioisotope scans, bone density tests, bone age assessments, ultrasounds, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and electrocardiograms (EKG)

  • Urine tests including urinalysis and 24-hour urine collections

What procedures and treatments does a pediatric endocrinologist perform or order?

Pediatric endocrinologists order or perform various procedures and treatments to manage endocrine and hormonal conditions in children and teens. However, a pediatric endocrinologist is not a surgeon. If your child needs surgery, your doctor will refer you to either a general surgeon or a specialized surgeon depending on your child’s condition. For example, a neurosurgeon specializes in performing surgeries on the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of your brain. Common procedures and treatments include:  

  • Counseling including behavior modification for obese and overweight patients

  • Diet including bariatric medicine treatments and nutrition education

  • Exercise including weight-bearing exercises and cardiovascular conditioning

  • Medications including hormonal therapy, hormone replacement, hormone blockers, physiologic antagonists (drugs that oppose the action of the hormone), vitamins, diabetes medications, insulin injections, insulin pumps, and cancer chemotherapies

  • Radiation including radioactive isotopes, radiation therapy, and radiosurgeries such as Gamma Knife surgery

  • Recommendations and referrals for surgery including partial or full removal of an endocrine gland, weight loss (bariatric) surgery, and surgery to remove cancerous and noncancerous tumors

Pediatric endocrinologist training and certification

A doctor may practice pediatric endocrinology without becoming board certified in the specialty. However, education, training, experience and certification are key elements in establishing a doctor’s level of competence. Board certification in pediatric endocrinology verifies that a doctor has completed residency training in the specialty and has passed competency examinations.

A board-certified pediatric endocrinologist has earned certification in pediatric endocrinology by the American Board of Pediatrics or the American Osteopathic Board of Pediatrics.

A board-certified pediatric endocrinologist has:

  • Graduated from medical school or a college of osteopathic medicine, earning an MD or DO degree

  • Completed specialized residency training in pediatrics

  • Passed a certification exam that validates the doctor’s knowledge and skills in pediatrics

  • Completed specialized training in pediatric endocrinology

  • Passed a written certification exam that validates the doctor’s specialized knowledge and skills in pediatric endocrinology

To maintain board certification in pediatric endocrinology, a doctor must participate in an ongoing certification program.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2017 Nov 10
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Certification. American Osteopathic Board of Pediatrics. http://www.aobp.org/certification.shtml.  
  2. Diseases and Conditions. The Endocrine Society. http://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions.  
  3. Endocrine System and Syndromes. American Association for Clinical Chemistry. http://labtestsonline.org/understanding/conditions/endocrine/?start=3.  
  4. Pediatric Endocrinology Certification. American Board of Pediatrics. https://www.abp.org/content/pediatric-endocrinology-certification.  
  5. What Is a Pediatric Endocrinologist? American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/english/family-life/health-management/pediatric-specialists/pages/what-is-a-pediatric-endocrinologist.aspx.