What is Endocrine System?
Endocrine system is formed by internal secretory glands. Internal secretory glands synthesize and secrete hormones. Hormones regulate various activities in our body. Hormones regulate reproduction, metabolism, growth and development. Hormones also control our reaction to the environment and help supply of energy and nutrition sufficient to maintain functions of our body. Hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas, ovaries and testicles, adrenal glands, fat tissue as well as endothelium (cells lining innermost wall of vessels) are secretory glands that form the endocrine system.
Who are Endocrinologists?
Endocrinologist is a specialist dealing with the endocrine system. Endocrinologists diagnose diseases that affect the endocrine glands. They are trained to treat various diseases which are generally complex and affect several systems in our body.
What Do Endocrinologist Deal With?
Endocrinologists diagnose, supervise and treat hormonal imbalances and conditions. Hormonal diseases are numerous, such as: Diabetes mellitus, Thyroid disesaes, Metabolic disorders, over- or under-production of hormones, Menopause, Osteoporosis, Hypertension, diseases of lipid metabolism, Infertility, Growth Retardation (Short stature), tumors of secretory glands, Obesity…
Endocrinologists may order certain tests to examine how endocrine glands function.
What Kind of Medical Education Do Endocrinologists Study?
Endocrinologists study internal medicine specialty education for four or five years following 6 years of medical education. They spend further three years to learn how to diagnose and treat hormonal problems. It takes more than 13 years in total to be an endocrinologist.
What are Most Common Endocrine Diseases and Dysfunctions?
Endocrine diseases and dysfunctions can be grouped in various categories. Main areas of endocrinology are explained below.
Blood glucose is too high in diabetic patients. Recent studies show that regulation of blood glucose may help severe problems, which diabetes may cause. These problems are related to eyes, kidneys and nerves and it may cause blindness, kidney failure, dialysis or gangrene in patients with poorly regulated blood glucose. Endocrinologists treat diabetes with diet and oral medication or insulin. They work with patients to regulate their blood glucose and supervise them in order to prevent potential health problems.
Patients with thyroid gland disorders frequently experience problems with energy levels. In addition, they may have other problems, such as muscle stiffness, sensorial deficits, weight control and intolerance to hot or cold. Endocrinologists treat patients with abnormally high thyroid hormone (Hyperthyroidism) secondary to excessive secretion of hormone in thyroid gland or abnormally low thyroid hormone (Hypothyroidism) secondary to insufficient secretion of hormone in thyroid gland. Patients are either given thyroid hormone or a drug to block excessive hormone production in order to balance the hormone synthesis. Endocrinologists are also trained and educated to treat thyroid nodules, thyroid cancer and enlarged thyroid gland (goiter).
Osteomalacia (called Rickets in children) that implies softening of bones and osteoporosis as well as parathyroid diseases that impair calcium homeostasis and cause osteoporosis are bone diseases endocrinologists diagnose and treat. Osteoporisis is a disease which weakens the skeletal system. Certain hormones protect osseous tissues, while certain hormones harm them. Bones may lose calcium and weakens, if hormone levels are abnormal. Menopause for women and loss of testicular function and aging for men may increase your risk for bone fractures.
Reproduction / Infertility
One in every ten couples cannot achieve pregnancy worldwide. Endocrinology research has helped conception in thousands of couples. Endocrinologists diagnose and treat hormonal disorders which may cause infertility. They work with patients who need hormone supplementation or replacement. Endocrinologists deal with menopause-related complaints, irregular menstrual cycles, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), premenstrual syndrome and impotence in field of reproductive endocrinology.
Obesity and Overweight
Endocrinologists evaluate overweight and obese patients regarding metabolic and hormonal problems and start them on treatment. Obese people have excessive body fat. Thyroidal, adrenal, ovarian and pituitary disorders may cause obesity. Endocrinologists also evaluate and treat obesity-related insulin resistance and genetic problems.
Pituitary gland is commonly acknowledged as the main secretory gland, because it regulates other secretory glands. Pituitary gland produces several important hormones. Abnormally high or low pitutary hormones may cause infertility, mentrual disorders, growth disorders (overgrowth or short stature), cortisol imbalances (obesity or leanness) and high level of prolactin. Endocrinologists manage such conditions with medications and refer patients to surgical departments, if needed.
Insufficient growth hormone affects children and adults. Pediatric endocrinologists treat children with endocrine disorders that cause short stature and other growth retardations. Low growth hormone cause emotional stress and fatigue in adults. Safe and efficient growth hormone therapy is present for such individuals.
Hypertension means high blood pressure and it is a risk factor for heart diseases. More than 10% of people are hypertensive due to high aldosteron – a hormone synthesized in the adrenal gland. Approximately half of these cases have diseases which are surgically treatable. Metabolic syndrome or a rare adrenal disorder, pheochromocytoma, cause imbalance of hormones and cause hypertension. All mentioned conditions can be treated successfully.
Patients with lipid disorder have difficulty with maintaining normal body fat (cholesterol). The most common lipid disorders are; high cholesterol, hypertriglyceridemia or low level of high density lipoprotein (HDL). High level of these fats are associated with coronary diseases, paralysis and peripheral vascular disease (circulation problems of legs). Endocrinologists are trained to detect hypothyroidism, use of medicaion (such as cortison), and genetic or metabolic conditions, which may be associated with lipid diorders. Lipid disorders may coexist in certain conditions such as diabetes mellitus, metabolic sytndrome, polycystic ovary sydrome (PCOS) and obesity that require special management. Special diets, exercise and medications may be used to treat hyperlipidemia and other lipid disorders.