What is an Endocrinologist?

An endocrinologist is a highly trained doctor trained in treating diseases and conditions of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is a complex group of glands that create hormones that regulate our bodies in production of sugars, enzymes, hormones, reproduction, growth and development and more.

Through various blood tests the endocrinologist can tell if your pancreas is processing sugar correctly. He or she can also tell if your body is producing hormones in the proper levels to maintain growth in children or if the child’s body is producing too much of a specific hormone. In addition the endocrinologist can check the thyroid and metabolic system to see if it is functioning properly.

If a child goes into puberty too soon the endocrinologist can tell by a variety of tests and their combined results. The endocrinologist will do an X-ray of the child’s left wrist to get a “bone age” of the child. A series of injections will be given with a blood draw every 15 minutes as well as a physical exam. After compiling the information the endocrinologist will then prescribe appropriate medications such as Lupron Depot to stop the production of the hormones that begin puberty if the child is too young.

Early puberty can lead to a variety of other health conditions including short stature and ability to become a parent. By prolonging the time for puberty to begin the child’s growth will slow down to a normal pace and the child will have a much better chance of gaining a normal height (if a female begins menstruation she generally stops growing in height therefore it is preferable to slow the growth rate and allow her body to catch up structurally).

Many of the tests the endocrinologist performs are time specific, that is to say the test needs to be done either an hour before or an hour after a medication is given or a food is ingested. Testing for the specific markers in the blood and specific enzymes or hormones is often done in this fashion.

If the endocrinologist finds that the body is not functioning properly such as in Addisons disease (lack of adrenal glands functioning or lack of adrenal glands due to surgical removal because of cancer or other disease) the endocrinologist will then prescribe appropriate medications to maintain the body system. Depending on the condition the medications may be taken anywhere from once per day to several times per day. If an Addisons patient breaks a bone or has any stressful situation additional medication may be needed. If the patient is unconscious, or vomiting an injection must be given immediately. The endocrinologist and his or her team will train close family members or friends to be aware of this situation and be prepared to give such an injection if needed.

An endocrinologist is also trained to treat metabolic disorders, osteoporosis, menopause, hypertension, cholesterol disorders (high lipids etc), growth disorders (short stature), infertility and cancers of the endocrine system.

To become an endocrinologist you would need to go through medical school (four years) a residency of three to four years and then an addition two to three years of specialized training. In short you would need approximately 10 years of schooling after high school. Endocrinology is a fascinating field full of new information every day.