Medical terms can often sound like another language, so if you are not a healthcare professional it can be hard to keep up with all of the jargon.
Let’s break down the word endocrinologist.
Endocrine relates to glands and the hormones that they secrete in the body. The ending -ologist means one who studies. So an endocrinologist is a person who studies the glands and hormones in the body.
An endocrinologist is usually a medical doctor who treats people with hormone disorders or imbalances. These are highly skilled medical professionals that know the ins and outs of the hormones in the human body.
To know more about what an endocrinologist is it is important to understand the types of endocrinologists, their training, how to find one, and how they can help you, keep reading!
Types of Endocrinologists
There are three main types of endocrinologists: pediatric, reproductive, and internal medicine. The pediatric endocrinologist focuses on treating children under the age of 18 with hormonal issues. Some of the most common disorders they treat in children are related to improper growth, genetic conditions, and reproductive issues. They can also work with primary care doctors to treat conditions in children such as diabetes and other hormone related issues.
Reproductive endocrinologists specialize in treating those assigned female at birth. They are a specialist in the field of obstetrics and gynecology. Some things they may focus on are infertility, hormone imbalances related to the ovaries and other female anatomy structures.
The internal medicine endocrinologist treats all adults and treats general hormonal issues. They have a very broad scope of practice and are not confined to a small population of patients. This is who you would likely see for problems with testosterone imbalance, thyroid issues, and more. They commonly work together with a primary care physician to manage endocrine problems and are frequently consulted to manage more complex conditions.
The training of an endocrinologist is very extensive and difficult. It begins with a 4 year bachelor’s degree in any field of their choosing. Typically, this bachelor’s in a science related field and is a pre-med course set, however it could be in anything that they choose as long as they fulfill the course requirements for med school. Upon the completion of the bachelor’s degree they will go on to complete a 4 year medical program, where they will become a doctor. Afterwards, they begin residency in their chosen field, which in this case would most likely be internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, or pediatrics. The residency is a 3 to 7 year long program where the doctor trains in a hospital along seasoned physicians. After the residency, they would go into an endocrinology fellowship where they become even more specialized to treat patients with hormonal disorders. The entire training process can last from 13 to 18 years.
How To Find an Endocrinologist
There are many ways to find an endocrinologist in your area. The most common way is that you will get a referral from your primary care provider or PCP. Your primary care provider is your first line when you feel that you have a problem that does not need immediate attention. If your care provider decides that you need the help of a hormone specialist, they will likely give you a referral to an endocrinologist that they know and trust.
Another way to find one in your area is by word of mouth. Ask around with your family and friends, or even for recommendations on your social media. Getting recommendations from the people you trust will give you peace of mind that someone else trusts the endocrinologist with their health or of someone they know.
The final way to find an endocrinologist is online. Going to the doctor does not have to be difficult and telehealth can help. Telehealth or telemedicine is the process of having an appointment with a healthcare provider over the phone or computer to make healthcare accessible to you.
At Elite HRT, you can get in touch with an endocrinologist via telehealth to help with your hormone replacement therapy needs, all from the comfort of your own home.
What Can an Endocrinologist Help With?
As you already know, endocrinologists deal with all things hormones. Glands in the body are what release those hormones. If any of the glands are malfunctioning, an endocrinologist can address them. We will go gland by gland to understand some of the reasons someone may go to an endocrinologist. Also note that this is not a comprehensive list of things that an endocrinologist can do, but simply an overview of some of the most common conditions.
> Adrenal Glands
You have 2 adrenal glands, that each sit on top of the kidney, like a little hat. These adrenal glands secrete the hormones cortisol, aldosterone, epinephrine, norepinephrine, DHEA and androgenic hormones. All of these hormones have many different functions. For example, cortisol is released in the body’s response to stress and also to balance regular body functions like metabolism, blood sugar, and inflammation. If any of these hormones are out of balance they could cause issues like Cushing’s disease, Addison’s disease, hyperaldosteronism, and hypoaldosteronism.
> Pituitary Gland
The pituitary gland is called the master gland because it is responsible for most of the body’s endocrine functioning. It also signals to other glands in the body to start or stop making their hormones. Some of the hormones that the pituitary gland releases are growth hormone (GH), prolactin, thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), oxytocin, antidiuretic hormone, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH). These hormones impact almost every system in the body, so if there is an issue with this gland it can have serious implications.
> Pineal Gland
The pineal gland releases the hormone melatonin. This small gland is located in the brain and helps your body to know when it is time to sleep and rest. It uses cues from light and other things to know when it is time for sleep. Those who are visually impaired, have a structural defect, and more could have issues with the pineal gland and ultimately the sleep-wake cycle.
The pancreas is a large gland that is integral to the digestive system. It releases insulin, glucagon, gastrin, and amylin. All of these hormones are important, but insulin is the most notable as the lack of insulin is what causes diabetes mellitus. Without insulin you would have high blood sugar and your body would not be able to utilize the sugars it needs for energy.
> Ovaries and Testicles
The ovaries and testicles are vital reproductive organs that are also responsible for releasing hormones. The ovaries release the hormones estrogen and progesterone that are responsible for the menstrual cycle and reproduction. The testes produce testosterone which is vital for men’s hormone balance. If testosterone is out of balance it could have impacts on sex drive, the ability to get an erection, fertility, mood, the growth of body hair, growing muscles, and many others.
> Thyroid Gland
The thyroid glands are huge when it comes to managing your body’s metabolism. The thyroid gland releases triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). If these levels are either too high or too low you could have a thyroid problem that needs attention. As mentioned it affects your metabolism so it can impact things like your weight, temperature regulation, heart rate, and even mood.
> Parathyroid Glands
The parathyroid glands are pea-sized glands located just behind the thyroid gland. The parathyroid glands are mainly responsible for regulating the calcium in the body. The hormone that is released by the parathyroid is parathyroid hormone. Conditions that impact the parathyroid glands can affect the bones, muscles, and nerves in the body. If these conditions are not managed by an endocrinologist there could be serious consequences.
> Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy has become very popular in the last few years. Typically an endocrinologist would be responsible for managing this treatment for you. Hormone replacement therapy is the process of restoring low or imbalance hormones back to a youthful level. This can help to support your body’s normal functioning. It is most commonly used with estrogen, testosterone, growth hormone, and thyroid and adrenal hormones.
As you can see, the endocrine system is quite complex. It is no wonder that an endocrinologist needs so much special training to handle all of its conditions and functioning.
Working with an endocrinologist can help you to get your hormones in balance to keep your body working as optimally as possible. When choosing an endocrinologist make sure it is a doctor that you trust, is convenient for you, and has expertise in exactly what you are looking for.
At Elite HRT, our endocrinologists can help to see if hormone therapy is right for you and how it could potentially improve your quality of life.
Adrenal Glands – John Hopkins Medicine
Pituitary Gland: What Is It & Definition – Cleveland Clinic
Testicular Disorders: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment – Cleveland Clinic
The Digestive Process: What Is the Role of Your Pancreas in Digestion? – John Hopkins Medicine