An endocrinologist is an internal medicine physician with an additional 2–3 years of training focused on the diagnosis and treatment of endocrine glands and the hormones they produce. Endocrine disorders are due to a hormonal imbalance (too much or too little) or an abnormal gland. Endocrine glands have complex functions affecting the entire body. Endocrine glands include the pancreas, thyroid, parathyroids, ovaries and testes, adrenals, and pituitary.
When To See an Endocrinologist
If you are questioning when to see an endocrinologist, at Atlantic Endocrinology and Diabetes Center you are in the right hands. There are many reasons why someone might reach out to one of these specialists. The endocrine system plays a big part in how your body functions, so there are multiple ways that it can malfunction. This could present itself through anything from unusual weight gain to changes in your libido.
A common issue that is treated in this field is hypothyroidism. This disorder often comes with a long list of symptoms that you might not realize are related at first. Some common problems include:
- Weight gain
- Sore or stiff muscles
- Heavy or irregular periods
- Hair thinning
- Higher blood cholesterol levels
- Higher sensitivity to the cold
Some of the first clues many women have are unexpected weight gain, thinning hair, and depression. They also might suffer from anemia, which can be caused by hypothyroidism. In fact, it’s possible for women to discover that they have anemia before they find out about the cause of it. Although, it’s estimated that only 33% of women worldwide are anemic.
A general rule of thumb is that if you are noticing unusual changes in your body or moods that seem hard to explain, you should discuss it with your family doctor. They should be able to do some tests and find out if you need to be referred to an endocrinologist for specialized treatment.
Why would you need to see an endocrinologist?
Both common and uncommon endocrine disorders can require the expertise of an endocrinologist. Here are some reasons to see an endocrinologist.
1) Diabetes mellitus
Diabetes is the most common endocrine disorder in the United States. In 2018, 34.2 million Americans had diabetes1—approximately 10.5% of the population. Nearly 1.6 million Americans have type 1 diabetes. We can group diabetes into categories, including type 1, type 2, and gestational. There are other types of diabetes outside our discussion.
- Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90–95% of all diabetes. Insulin resistance and the inability of the pancreas to produce enough insulin leads to elevated blood sugars.
- Type 1 diabetes is due to the body’s destruction of its own insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. In medical terms, it is autoimmune destruction. This leads to a complete deficiency of insulin. Treatment requires replacement of insulin via injections or an insulin pump.
- Gestational diabetes refers to diabetes that develops during pregnancy. Obstetrician/gynecologists (Ob/gyns) screen women for gestational diabetes at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy.
It may surprise some to see obesity here. Obesity is NOT the result of lack of discipline or poor choices. Obesity is a complex, chronic disease that increases the risk of developing other diseases and health problems. It is not just a cosmetic concern.
Like other chronic diseases, obesity requires lifelong treatment. Obesity treatment involves nutrition, physical activity, medications, and/or surgery. A board-certified obesity medicine doctor can perform a thorough medical evaluation and create a personalized weight loss plan with you.
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck. It produces the hormones T4 and (to a lesser extent) T3. Thyroid hormone affects nearly every organ in the body, including the brain, heart, gastrointestinal system, and bone.
Disorders of the thyroid gland include causes of a low thyroid level (hypothyroidism) and high thyroid level (hyperthyroidism). The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Causes of hyperthyroidism include Graves’ disease, toxic multinodular goiter, toxic adenoid, and less common causes.
Endocrinologists also diagnose and manage conditions related to the structure of the thyroid gland, such as thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer.
4) Low testosterone (male hypogonadism)
Male hypogonadism refers to the failure of the testes to produce a normal concentration of testosterone and/or a normal number of sperm. Symptoms can include reduced libido, decreased spontaneous erections, erectile dysfunction, low sperm count, decreased energy and motivation, and poor concentration.
Low testosterone clinics and men’s health clinics have grown in popularity. These settings come with the risk of incorrect diagnoses and inappropriate treatment that leads to health risks and harm. In a future post, we will discuss the importance of seeing an endocrinologist to determine whether low testosterone truly exists, why it does, and how to treat it safely and effectively.
The adrenal glands are 2 pyramid or crescent-shaped glands. One sitting above each kidney. They produce steroid hormones critical for life, such as cortisol and aldosterone.
Disorders of the adrenal glands include abnormal levels of the above steroid hormones. Examples include too little cortisol (adrenal insufficiency), too much cortisol (Cushing syndrome), and too much aldosterone (hyperaldosteronism).
CT and MRI scans sometimes reveal incidental adrenal masses. These masses, referred to as adrenal incidentalomas, require a thorough evaluation by an endocrinologist.
You can find more reasons to see an endocrinologist by contacting us. If you need the care of an endocrinologist, we are happy to help. Schedule a consultation to discuss how we can create a personalized plan for you.