You and Your Endocrinologist
Endocrinology is the study of medicine that relates to the endocrine system, which is the system that controls hormones. Endocrinologists are specially trained physicians who diagnose diseases related to the glands. 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.
What Does an Endocrinologist Do?
The glands in a person's body release hormones. Endocrinologists treat people who suffer from hormonal imbalances, typically from glands in the endocrine system or certain types of cancers. The overall goal of treatment is to restore the normal balance of hormones found in a patient's body. Some of the more common conditions treated by endocrinologists include:
- Adrenal disorders
- Osteoporosis and bone health
- Endocrine disorders in children (lack of growth, problems with puberty)
- Heart problems (high cholesterol, triglycerides, high blood pressure)
- Men's health (infertility, testosterone levels)
- Pituitary disorders
- Thyroid disorders
- Weight and metabolism
- Women's health (menopause, infertility, some menstrual problems)
Most of the work performed by an endocrinologist serves as the basis for ongoing research. Some endocrinologists work solely as research physicians. The goal of the research is to come up with new ways to better treat hormonal imbalances, including the development of new drugs.
What Does it Take to Become an Endocrinologist?
The first step to become an endocrinologist is earning a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Toward the end of the bachelor's program, a student will then have to apply for and be accepted to medical school. Once accepted, four more years of schooling will have to be completed. Most endocrinologists will complete a residency that lasts anywhere from three to four years. After schooling has been completed, it is then mandated that a state licensure be obtained.
Common courses that will have to be completed to become an endocrinologist include:
- Thyroid imaging and analysis
- Clinical endocrinology
- Endocrinology and genetics
- Molecular endocrinology concepts
- Endocrine tumors
It usually takes at least 10 years for a person to complete all of the necessary coursework, schooling and training to become an endocrinologist. From the year 2010 through 2020, there is an expected growth rate of 24 percent for this position. Before a person starts the educational path to becoming this type of physician, it is highly recommended that he or she carefully consider whether or not it is the right path.