The Role of the Endocrinologist
As stated by the Hormone Health Network, an endocrinologist is a doctor who has studied the endocrine system and its diseases. These doctors know how to diagnose the diseases of the endocrine glands, and also how to treat them. Because these doctors specialize in these conditions, which can be complex and have hard-to-spot symptoms, an endocrinologist is your best advocate when dealing with hormonal issues.
Most patients begin their journey to the endocrinologist with a trip to their primary care provider or family doctor. This doctor will run a series of tests to see what could be the potential problem the patient is facing. If a problem with the hormones is suspected, the primary care doctor will provide a referral. The endocrinologist’s goal is to restore hormonal balance in the body.
Becoming an endocrinologist requires a minimum of 10 years of training. These specialists are highly sought-after for their understanding of these unique chemical messengers. If you are struggling with your hormones, this type of specialist is the doctor you want on your side.
The term “Thyroiditis” refers to “inflammation of the thyroid gland”. There are many possible causes of thyroiditis. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, also known as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States. It is an autoimmune disorder in which antibodies directed against the thyroid gland lead to chronic inflammation. It is not known why some people make antibodies, although this condition tends to run in families. Over time, however, this results in impaired ability of the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones, leading to gradual decline in function and eventually an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism). Hashimoto’s thyroiditis occurs most commonly in middle aged women, but can be seen at any age, and can also affect men, and children.
From the American Thyroid Association, more information found here.
Located at the top of each kidney, the adrenal glands produce hormones that help the body control blood sugar, burn protein and fat, react to stressors like a major illness or injury, and regulate blood pressure. Two of the most important adrenal hormones are cortisol and aldosterone. The adrenal glands also produce adrenaline and small amounts of sex hormones called androgens, among other hormones. Adrenal disorders can be caused by too much or too little of a particular hormone. For example, Cushing syndrome is caused by an overproduction of cortisol, or more commonly, the use of medications called glucocorticoids—cortisol-like drugs—which are used to treat inflammatory disorders such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Untreated Cushing syndrome can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and other health issues.
When the adrenal glands produce too much aldosterone, blood pressure rises. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can put you at risk for stroke, heart attack, heart failure, or kidney failure.
Osteoporosis and Bone Health
Bone health is important for everyone. The risk of osteoporosis increases with age. However, there are steps you can take at any age to prevent osteoporosis or delay its effects. Read more about osteoporosis symptoms and treatment in this section and in our related fact sheets.
Children and Teen Health
When many people think about hormones, they think of the male and female sex hormones testosterone and estrogen. But children as well as adults produce many other kinds of hormones that affect every aspect of their health.
Learn more about how hormones can specifically affect a child or adolescent’s growth and development, as well as their overall health, in our related fact sheets. If you are specifically interested in growth hormone disorders, please see our Pituitary information.
The endocrine system is a network of glands and organs that produce, store, and secrete hormones. It influences many aspects of the cardiovascular system, which include the heart and blood vessels. While hormones play a necessary role in maintaining healthy cardiovascular function, very high levels of some can contribute to cardiovascular disease.
Certain hormones can increase blood pressure and raise levels of lipids (blood fats—cholesterol and triglycerides). Hypertension (high blood pressure) and dyslipidemia (abnormal lipid levels) are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Information from the Hormone Health Network. Learn more at Hormone.org.
Hormones play a big role in men’s health, affecting your energy level, weight, mood, interest in sex, fertility and much more. How hormones affect the health of men—and women, too—changes as you age so it’s important to stay informed. To learn more, see our related fact sheets and patient guides.
An estimated 26 million Americans have type 1or type 2 diabetes, and 79 million more have prediabetes—when blood glucose (sugar) levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Find out more about what causes diabetes, symptoms of diabetes, treatment, and other useful information about this serious disease.
Hormone abuse by adults and children is a serious concern. Recent studies show that 4.2 percent of all high school males and 2.9 percent of high school females report having taken anabolic steroids without a doctor’s prescription. Anabolic steroids are related to testosterone, the major male hormone. Abuse of this hormone can lead to physical and psychological side effects. These problems include breast development among men, and facial hair growth, menstrual problems and a deepened voice in women. The possible long-term health effects can be serious: liver tumors, abnormal cholesterol levels and heart disease, and stunted height among adolescents. High doses have been related to irritable and aggressive behavior. Read our Hormone Abuse section and fact sheets here.
The pituitary gland is a tiny organ, the size of a pea, found at the base of the brain. As the “master gland” of the body, it produces many hormones that travel throughout the body, directing certain processes or stimulating other glands to produce other hormones.
The thyroid is a small butterfly-shaped gland inside the neck, located in front of the trachea (windpipe) and below the larynx (voicebox). It produces two thyroid hormones—triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4)—that travel though the blood to all tissues of the body.
Thyroid hormones regulate how the body breaks down food and either uses that energy immediately or stores it for the future. In other words, our thyroid hormones regulate our body’s metabolism.
Another gland, called the pituitary gland, actually controls how well the thyroid works. The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain and produces thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). The bloodstream carries TSH to the thyroid gland, where it tells the thyroid to produce more thyroid hormones, as needed.
Thyroid hormones influence virtually every organ system in the body. They tell organs how fast or slow they should work. Thyroid hormones also regulate the consumption of oxygen and the production of heat.
Endocrinologists—physicians and scientists who study and care for patients with endocrine gland and hormone problems—study and treat several major disorders of the thyroid gland. The following is a list of some common thyroid disorders.
Being either overweight or underweight can affect your health in many ways. Both can increase your risk for serious heart problems, and being overweight makes it more likely that you will develop diabetes, high blood pressure, certain cancers, and other health problems. Read more about weight issues and what you can do to stay healthy.
Hormones have many important effects on women’s health. The female sex hormones, estrogen and progesterone, are most well known because their influence on a woman’s reproductive health, from menstruation to pregnancy to menopause and more. But your body also makes and uses many other kinds of hormones that affect other aspects of your health—from your energy level, weight, mood and much more.
Learn more about hormones and how they impact a woman’s sexuality and reproduction, the common hormonal disorder polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and menopause as well as other hormone conditions that affect both women and men.
Information from the Hormone Health Network. Learn more at Hormone.org.