Endocrinology: the What and the Who

Diabetes, thyroid disorders, osteoporosis and menopause are the most generally familiar conditions that fall under the umbrella of the practice of Endocrinology. However, this medical specialty covers a much wider range of conditions, some of which are rare or challenging to diagnose.

Endocrinology is the study, diagnosis and treatment of metabolic and endocrine disorders. Metabolism is a biochemical process that breaks down certain substances, such as milk and cookies, to construct others, such as bone and fat. Certain glandular organs, together comprising the “endocrine system”, produce the hormones that control various body functions.

In addition to the conditions mentioned above, Endocrinologists see patients who may have problems related to:

  • High blood pressure
  • High triglycerides and/or high cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Disorders of the pituitary, adrenal or parathyroid glands
  • Abnormal estrogen or testosterone levels
  • Decreased libido or erectile dysfunction
  • Infertility
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • Female hirsutism
  • Abnormal growth and development in children

Endocrinologists follow a long educational path to build their knowledge and skills and to earn their credentials as medical sub-specialists. Beyond obtaining a Bachelor’s Degree with a high grade point average, they must complete four years of medical school, a one-year internship and two or more years of residency training in Internal Medicine. They then must pass a board examination and be certified in that field of practice. Following that, they must complete a minimum of two additional years of Endocrinology “fellowship”, in-depth subspecialty training, and pass a written examination. Only then will professional certification be conferred by the American Board of Internal Medicine Subspecialty Board of Endocrinology and Metabolism. Much of what Endocrinologists do becomes the basis of medical research studies and it is not unusual for these specialists to be involved in some way in such endeavors.