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Endocrinology, the Science of Hormones

All the organs of our endocrine system secrete certain hormones, which control almost all life functions including our movement, metabolism, respiration, excretion and reproduction.

Endocrinology is the science of the complex functions of our hormones, their secreting endocrine glands (pancreas, thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, ovaries and testes), and the hormone driven mechanisms of organs. 

Endocrinology blood samples

When to Turn to an Endocrine Specialist

Patients showing symptoms of diabetes, metabolic dysfunctions or hyper- or hypothyroidism are recommended to see an endocrine doctor the soonest possible, because endocrine conditions are typically chronic diseases requiring a long-term treatment plan. Hormonal balance is a fragile system and its restoration is a complex and delicate procedure.

As all hormones are released into the blood, laboratory blood tests are the most reliable source of diagnosis for endocrine specialists. There might be a need for a life-long treatment of the disease, so establishing a confidential doctor – patient relationship is indispensable.

Most endocrine specialists qualify in internal medicine, gynecology or pediatrics before they specialize in endocrinology. In order to be a board certified endocrinologists, doctors need to accomplish 3 years of residency in the above mentioned fields and two years of specialization.

Organizations of Endocrinologists

  • European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology (international)
  • The Endocrine Society (U.S.A.)
  • The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
  • Society for Endocrinology (Britain)
  • British Society for Peadiatric Endocrinology and Diabetes

Subspecialties of Clinical Endocrinology

  • Pediatric endocrinology (dealing with diabetes, growth disorders, interest disorders. adrenal and thyroid problems in childhood, inborn metabolic dysfunctions).
  • Neuroendocrinology (focuses on the connection between the hypothalamus produced pituitary gland hormones and the nervous system).
  • Reproductive endocrinology (examines the hormonal aspects of reproduction and infertility).

Seven Classes of Endocrine Disorders

  • Thyroid disorder
  • Adrenal disorders
  • Glucose homeostasis disorders
  • Pituitary gland disorders
  • Calcium homeostasis disorders
  • Metabolic bone disease
  • Sex hormone disorders

Within these classes basically we distinguish three conditions.

  • Hypo-secretion – When the endocrine gland hormone production is insufficient.
  • Hypersecretion – When the endocrine gland overproduces certain hormones.
  • Tumors of the endocrine glands.

Endocrinology doctor patient MRI

Endocrine Surgery to Restore Hormonal Balance

Endocrine surgeons tend to use more and more frequently endoscopic means to perform operations on the endocrine glands. The most common endocrine surgery is the partial or total removal of the thyroid gland and the parathyroid glands, removing tumors from the endocrine glands or removing the whole tumorous gland (e.g. adrenalectomy).

The surgery of the pituitary glands, testicles and ovary are usually done by neurosurgeons, urologists and gynecologists respectively. So, endocrine surgery most commonly is performed on the neck, which obviously implies some special risk factors.

Endocrine surgery is quite a rare specialty, so do not expect such abundance in the market as in case of plastic surgeons. If you want to make sure that your endocrine surgeon is certified, ask for memberships in the International Association of Endocrine Surgeons or in the U.S.A. the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons.

Thyroid operations are performed in great numbers by non-specialists, but you can considerably increase the success rate, especially in the case of more complicated endocrine conditions, if you turn to an endocrine specialist.

Some Advice to Take Before an Endocrine Surgery

  • Search for a specialists in thyroid, parathyroid or adrenal surgeries who is part of a multidisciplinary team of physicians.
  • Pick hospitals or clinics that are able to provide you with an appointment within one or two weeks.
  • Some procedures need a referral from your general practitioners, get informed!
  • During the pre-surgical consultations you can expect a biopsy, be prepared!
  • Go for minimally – invasive surgeries if possible, your scar will be less visible and your recovery time shorter.

Read about Endocrine procedures in more detail.

List of Endocrinology's procedures