Changes in your body can be subtle, such as slow but steady weightgain, or something more alarming, such as finding a lump that wasn’tthere before. Whenever you notice symptoms that lead you to believesomething may be wrong, see your doctor. There are several thingsyour primary care physician may find that could lead them torecommend you see an endocrinologist.
What is an Endocrinologist?
Endocrinologists are medical doctors who have taken several years of additional training to learn about diagnosing and treating disorders related to hormone-producing glands, which together form the body’s endocrine system. These include the thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries, testicles, hypothalamus, and pituitary. These glands affect one another and work together to produce and regulate hormones in the body. A malfunction in any of these glands, or in how they work together in the body, can cause a variety of health issues.
Top Reasons to See an Endocrinologist
There are numerous reasons to see an endocrinologist.
As part of a routine physical exam, your primary care physician mayorder tests based on changes in your body since the last visit. Theymay also base this request on your age and/or gender, your familyhistory, or in response to your description of how you’re feeling.Your primary doctor can identify test results that are outside normalranges, but may not have the specialized knowledge necessary tospecifically identify or treat hormonal abnormalities and relateddisorders. That’s when your doctor may recommend you see anendocrinologist. Conditions and test results that are among the topreasons to see an endocrinologist include:
- Abnormal blood sugar levels, or symptoms such as excessive thirst, fatigue, weight gain or blurry vision: these are all symptoms of problems with insulin. This is a common reason to see an endocrinologist because your doctor may suspect diabetes—a condition that endocrinologists are best suited to manage.
- Abnormal levels of thyroid hormone: it’s possible to have too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism) thyroid hormone in your system. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism, so symptoms might include changes in weight (gain or loss). Other symptoms of thyroid problems include anxiety, hair loss, inability to handle cold temperatures or feeling cold all the time, an enlarged thyroid gland, or lumps that may indicate thyroid cancer. Your doctor may notice these endocrine disorders just by feeling your neck.
- Low testosterone levels: fatigue, hair loss, depression, and weakness may indicate problems with testosterone in men.
- Loss of bone density (osteoporosis): as we age, levels of sex hormones, particularly estrogen in women, decline and create conditions that make it difficult for our bones to replace old bone with new bone tissue. This elevates the risk of fractures. OB/Gyn practitioners typically recommend that post-menopausal women over 60 should have a bone density test. An endocrinologist can help manage the condition with medication, along with strength-building exercise and dietary supplements (taken under medical supervision.)
- Irregular periods, excessive hair growth, cysts, difficulty getting pregnant, and metabolic problems: these may indicate Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, which an endocrinologist should assess.
Your primary care doctor may be able to manage uncomplicated thyroid disorders such as mild hypothyroidism, with medication. But if your body is exhibiting serious abnormalities, lumps or an enlarged thyroid gland, or unexplained changes in weight, your doctor will likely recommend a visit to an endocrinologist. Seek recommendations and research credentials to locate the best endocrinologist in your area.