When To See an Endocrinologist

When someone becomes ill, they often don't think about the underlying causes. Instead, they seek treatment for their symptoms. However, this isn't always the best approach. In some cases, it's necessary to find the root cause of an illness to treat it effectively. This is especially true for endocrine disorders.

Endocrine disorders are those that involve the body's hormone-producing glands. Many people don’t realize that hormonal imbalances are the underlying cause of a variety of medical conditions. It can be hard to figure out what treatment you should seek, so we’ve outlined some reasons you may need to see an endocrinologist.

What is Endocrinology?

Endocrinology is the study of medicine that deals with the body’s endocrine system and the diseases that affect it. Endocrine disorders are those that involve the body's hormone-producing glands, such as the pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, and pancreas. Hormones are chemicals that affect how the body works. They can influence everything from a person's mood to their metabolism. Endocrine diseases may manifest in one of the following ways:

  • Glands make either too many or insufficient hormones, resulting in a hormonal imbalance.
  • Tumors or abnormalities arise in the endocrine system, which can have an impact on hormone levels.
  • An infection develops in the body, which can have an impact on hormone levels.

Endocrine disorders can be difficult to diagnose because they often don't cause symptoms until they've reached an advanced stage. That's why it's important to see an endocrinologist if you suspect you may have an endocrine disorder.

When Should I See an Endocrinologist?

Since many people don’t know that hormonal imbalances can be the cause of their health condition, they often aren’t aware of what warrants an endocrinologist visit. There are several reasons to see an endocrinologist, including:

  • A family history of endocrine disorders - One reason you should see an endocrinologist is if you have a family history of endocrine disorders. If you have a parent or sibling with diabetes, for example, you may be at increased risk for the condition and will need to be monitored closely.
  • Diabetes - Diabetes is the most common endocrine disorder, with an estimated 30 million (opens in a new tab)Americans having the disease. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas doesn’t produce enough of the hormone called insulin, or the body cannot use insulin properly. Insulin aids in transporting sugar into cells through the bloodstream, which is then transformed into the energy that most of our bodily processes are powered by.
  • Thyroid - The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. It manufactures hormones T4 and T3. The thyroid gland has a wide range of functions, including regulating nearly every organ in the body, such as the brain, heart, gastrointestinal system, and bone. Thyroid problems include hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism, both of which are caused by disorders of the thyroid gland. An Endocrinologist can manage and diagnose conditions related to the thyroid gland.
  • PCOS - Polycystic ovary syndrome affects approximately 8% to 13%(opens in a new tab) of reproductive women. The causes of PCOS are not fully understood, but it is likely that insulin resistance, altered hormone activity, and skew in the ovarian follicle selection process play a role. If related conditions have been excluded, diagnosis of PCOS would include two out of three symptoms such as abnormal periods or infrequent or missed cycles, evidence of elevated male sex hormone (androgens), or polycystic ovaries showing up on an ultrasound.
  • Adrenal gland abnormalities - The adrenal glands are two pyramid-shaped organs that sit atop each kidney. They produce steroid hormones critical for life, such as cortisol and aldosterone. Disorders of the adrenal glands include abnormal levels of these steroid hormones, like having too little cortisol (adrenal insufficiency), too much cortisol (Cushing syndrome), and too much aldosterone (hyperaldosteronism).

These common endocrine disorders require the expertise of an endocrinologist. If you suffer from these disorders or suspect you may have one, you should seek the help of an endocrinologist as soon as possible.

How Can an Endocrinologist Help?

An endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating hormone-related conditions, working to restore the hormone balance when an imbalance has occurred. An endocrinologist collaborates with a multidisciplinary team of specialists to select the best treatment for you.

An endocrinologist will perform blood and urine tests to assess hormone levels, as well as imaging procedures to detect a tumor or nodule. Your doctor may request routine blood testing to determine if your therapy is working and if it needs to be changed. Once your condition has been diagnosed, the endocrinologist will collaborate with your primary care doctor to develop a comprehensive treatment strategy to manage your symptoms.

In some cases, an endocrine condition may not produce any symptoms or be light enough that no treatment is required. But, if symptoms are bothersome, an endocrinologist might administer synthetic hormones to correct imbalances, or perform surgery or radiation therapy to remove a growth or tumor. If you suspect you have an endocrine disorder, you should reach out to an experienced endocrinologist at Premier Medical Associates as soon as possible.

Premier Medical Associates is an affiliate of the Allegheny Health Network and is the largest multi-specialty physician practice in the Greater Pittsburgh Area. Our highly experienced care team provides services like Endocrinology and primary care for you and your loved one’s needs. If you would like more information, please follow up with your primary care physician.