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What Is an Endocrinologist?

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Sandra Weber, M.D., FACP, FACE

President, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE)

What do you call a doctor who is:

  • A specialist in treating and caring for the biological systems that affect every cell in your body?
  • A licensed internal medicine doctor who, after four years of medical school and three years of residency, spends an additional two to three years training in their sub-specialty to become board-certified?
  • A physician whose expertise is focused on some of the most critical health issues facing Americans today, including diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, and nutritional deficiency?

The answer is: an endocrinologist.  

A full health specialist

Endocrinologists are physicians who are experts in caring for your body’s endocrine system (the system of glands and hormones that touch everything your body is and does) and metabolism. While your family physician or primary care doctor may have a good understanding of endocrine conditions like diabetes, and provide excellent care for their patients, an endocrinologist has studied metabolic diseases in depth and can provide a higher level of expertise. For this reason, it is often necessary to have an endocrinologist as part of your healthcare team to help treat complicated and difficult endocrine cases. 

The endocrine system is complex, comprising a number of glands in your body that provide it with the hormones to regulate everything from your blood sugar and lipids, energy levels, body temperature and physical growth, blood pressure, calcium and bone strength, sexual development, and reproduction.  

Health crises

There are two healthcare issues at crisis level right now, with diabetes and obesity reaching epidemic rates in the United States and around the world. Obesity is closely related to diabetes, making it a “co-morbidity” of the disease, and, together, these diseases have caused an increasing number of deaths and negatively impacted the lives of tens of millions of Americans.  

Caring for and treating people with diabetes accounts for a great deal of the focus of endocrinologists’ practices, and with global diabetes rates rising at an alarming pace, endocrinologists’ expertise and guidance are needed now more than ever.  

Growing need

Thyroid and heart disease caused by cholesterol — the build-up of fats, also called lipids, in the blood — are other critical health issues at the forefront of endocrinologists’ efforts. With the aging population, endocrinologists are helping more and more osteoporosis patients as well.

So who should see an endocrinologist? You should, if you suspect you may have an issue with any of the conditions discussed here. You can ask your primary care physician for a referral, or make an appointment yourself.  To learn more about what endocrinologists do and to find one near you, visit The American Association of Endocrinologists (AACE) website at www.aace.com and click on “Find and Endocrinologist.”

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