Endocrinologists are doctors who specialize in treating disorders of the glandular system including the pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, ovaries, testes, and pancreas. The glandular system controls the release of hormones in the body, so endocrinologists will also treat problems relating to hormone imbalance.
Currently, there are about 6,000 endocrinologists in the United States.
To become an endocrinologist doctors need to graduate from medical school and earn either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree.
Endocrinology is a specialty field of medicine so doctors will be required to gain experience in both internal medicine and endocrinology. Doctors will be required to complete a 3-year residency training in internal medicine that focuses on diagnosing and treating a variety of internal medical conditions.
Doctors who want to go into pediatric endocrinology will complete their residency program in pediatrics.
To practice medicine in any state, endocrinologists will be required to obtain a medical license. Medical licenses are awarded through comprehensive exams administered at the state level; requirements for the exam will vary by state.
A medical license allows doctors to practice any type of medicine but does not demonstrate skill in one particular type of medicine. To prove expertise, endocrinologists will need three qualifications: board certification in internal medicine, board certification in endocrinology, and a fellowship certificate in endocrinology.
After completing a residency program in internal medicine, doctors must become board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. To gain certification doctors will be required to demonstrate their expertise in a variety of ways and to pass a lengthy examination.
Endocrinologists will also be required to complete a 2 to 3-year fellowship program in endocrinology after completing a residency in internal medicine. The American Board of Internal Medicine also awards board certification in endocrinology. Requirements for board certification in endocrinology include completing a residency in internal medicine, having board certification in internal medicine, and completing a fellowship program in endocrinology.
Pediatric endocrinologists will get certified through the American Board of Pediatrics, and will complete a 3-year fellowship program in pediatric endocrinology where they will learn endocrinology treatments for child-specific problems like childhood diabetes (which accounts for the majority of pediatric endocrinology cases), innate or present at birth hormone disorders, and other childhood endocrinology problems.
After completing a fellowship program pediatric endocrinologists will also need board certification specifically in pediatric endocrinology through the American Board of Pediatrics.
Where Endocrinologists Work
Most endocrinologists work in private or group practices to treat their patients, and some of these practices may be connected to other health care facilities (like hospitals) where endocrinologists will visit their patients. Endocrinologists can also work directly in hospitals or other health care facilities, or may work in teaching, clinical, or research settings.
How Endocrinologists Help People
Endocrinology is a branch of medicine that studies the endocrine system, or the glands that secrete hormones like the thyroid, pancreas, ovaries, testes, adrenals, and pituitary. Endocrinologists diagnose and treat conditions relating to hormone imbalance in their patients. These hormones control functions like:
- Sexual development
- Bone density
Patients are often referred to endocrinologists by their primary care physicians for specialty care. Endocrinologists will look for physical symptoms of hormonal imbalances, will talk to the patient about their family health history, and will take blood samples.
The two most common disorders that endocrinologists treat are diabetes and thyroid disorders.
About 29 million Americans currently suffer from diabetes. Diabetes is a disorder of insulin, a hormone that is produced by the pancreas and controls blood sugar. When we eat, a sugar called glucose enters the body. Insulin's role is to move this sugar from the blood stream into the other parts of the body like the muscle, fat, and liver cells where it will be used as fuel. People affected with diabetes have higher than normal blood sugar levels because their bodies do not make enough insulin or do not properly respond to insulin. An endocrinologist will treat the patient with insulin injections, and will help patients manage diabetes symptoms with diet changes and other lifestyle modifications.
The thyroid gland, located in the neck, produces hormones that control the body's metabolism. When the thyroid produces too much or too little thyroid hormones patients suffer problems with energy levels, weight control, reduced heart rate, and sensitivity to cold. Endocrinologists will help patients block or replace the thyroid hormone.
Other diseases endocrinologists treat include:
Pituitary Gland Disorders
The pituitary gland is often called the “master gland” because it produces hormones that control many of the other glands in the endocrine system. Disorders of the pituitary gland can cause infertility, menstrual disorders, and kidney problems.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, can be caused by an overproduction of aldosterone, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Endocrinologists will treat patients with hypertensions by implementing lifestyle changes and providing medications.
Some hormones in the body function to protect bone tissue. When levels of these hormones dip, patients can suffer osteomalacia (rickets) or osteoporosis.
Endocrinologists will also treat cancers of the endocrine glands, hormonal imbalances due to menopause, infertility, and lack of or excessive growth.
The average salary of endocrinologists is $218,000.
Medical Negligence and Endocrinologists
Diabetes and thyroid disorders, the two major disorders that endocrinologists treat, can have serious consequences when left undiagnosed or when they are mismanaged.
Undiagnosed diabetes can result in lower limb amputations, kidney disease, and blindness. Diabetes can lead to a number of severe symptoms (click here to read more about negligence in diabetes treatments), so endocrinologists must closely monitor their diabetes patients. Diabetes patients, if following their doctor's instructions, should not face emergency insulin situations.
Undiagnosed thyroid disorders can result in birth defects, autoimmune disorders, psychiatric problems, and advancing stages of cancer.
Osteoporosis is a serious condition that affects one in three women and one in five men over the age of 50. Osteoporosis causes bone tissue to re-absorb into the body, which can cause back pain, problems with posture, and can lead to life-threatening bone fractures. Bone fractures are particularly serious for elderly patients who can face surgeries and serious loss of mobility as a result of fractures.
Hypertension causes damage to the heart, brain, arteries, and kidneys, and if left undiagnosed can result in serious conditions like heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, aneurysm or dementia.
Experienced Medical Malpractice Attorneys
Hormones from the endocrine glands control many major functions in the body, and properly diagnosing and treating hormone disorders is essential to a patient's health.
If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered an injury while under treatment of an endocrinologist, call Gilman & Bedigian today to schedule a free consultation.
Our experienced malpractice attorneys have achieved remarkable results in compensation for our clients, and we will not charge attorney fees until you get the compensation you deserve.