Please note, PlushCare does not have endocrinologists at this time but our highly trained primary care physicians can help with most conditions and will provide referrals when necessary.
What is an Endocrinologist?
An endocrinologist is a medical doctor who can diagnose and treat conditions related to hormone imbalances. Endocrinologists are highly trained medical doctors that treat problems that arise from hormone complications.
Endocrinologists complete undergraduate school, medical school, and residency training. Some continue study as with a fellowship to add even more expertise. Overall, this takes 11-14 years of full-time study.
The Endocrine System
The endocrine system is a system in your body with a series of glands that produce and secrete hormones. These hormones are used for a wide range of bodily functions.
The endocrine system regulates:
- Sensory perception
The main hormone producing glands in the endocrine system include:
What Diseases Does an Endocrinologist Treat?
The most common disease endocrinologists treat are diabetes mellitus and thyroid disease.
Other uncommon diseases endocrinologists treat are diseases involving the pituitary gland, lipid disorders, Addison’s disease, Cushing’s syndrome, diabetes insipidus, and polycystic ovarian disease. Here are the diseases an endocrinologist can treat:
- Diabetes mellitus type 1 and type 2
- Thyroid disorders: hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism
- Polycystic ovarian disease
- Addison’s disease
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Infertility issues
Thyroid, Hypothyroidism, and Hyperthyroidism
The thyroid gland is a butterfly shaped gland that is located in the lower part of the neck along your windpipe beneath the Adam’s apple. The thyroid gland is an important gland in charge of many bodily functions. The main function of the thyroid gland is to release thyroid hormones that control metabolic activity.
If thyroid hormones are too low, it is called hypothyroidism. Here are some signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism:
- Feeling cold when others are not
- Muscle weakness
- Pale, dry skin
- Feeling tired
- Feeling sad or depressed
- Joint or muscle pain
- Weight gain, even if you are not eating more food
If thyroid hormones are too high, it is called hyperthyroidism. With hyperthyroidism your thyroid is overactive. Here are some signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism:
- Mood swings
- Sensitivity to heat
- Muscle weakness
If you are having symptoms of a thyroid disorder you should see a doctor. Endocrinologists and primary care physicians can prescribe medications to treat thyroid disorders. If your PCP is unable to diagnose and treat your condition they will refer you to an endocrinologist.
What are the Symptoms of Endocrine Disorders?
Endocrine disorders can manifest themselves in different ways. Many endocrine disorders make people extremely tired or fatigued. Other symptoms of endocrine disorders include:
- Weight changes
- Blood glucose level fluctuations
- Mood changes
- Cholesterol changes
While other endocrine disorders have specific symptoms such as
- Rounded face (moon face)
- Excessive urination
- Skin color changes especially on the face, neck and back of hands
- Salty food cravings
- Decreased libido
- Menstrual changes
- Recurrent infections
When to See an Endocrinologist
Wondering when should I see an endocrinologist? If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above your first step is to consult with a primary care provider.
A primary care provider will determine if you need to see an endocrinologist and can write you a referral. The PCP may be able to diagnose and treat your condition themselves, without referring you to specialized care.
Typically, endocrinologist work on referrals from primary care providers, because sometimes primary care providers are able to manage these diseases without the help of a specialist (who are more expensive).
If you have an uncommon or difficult diagnosis, then you should see a medical professional as soon as possible. Some red flags that you may need to see an endocrinologist include:
- Problems with your vision
- Rapid weight loss or gain
- Kidney complications
- Drastic changes in your blood sugar levels
- Tingling in hands and feet
When you are facing a diagnosis of a hormonal condition, like diabetes mellitus or thyroid disease, your primary doctor may suggest that you see an endocrinologist.
The benefit of seeing a specialist is that the specialist is an expert on a few conditions and have access to more resources for diagnosis and treatments.
What Does an Endocrinologist Do on The First Visit?
The first visit with the endocrinologist is not that much different than a regular doctor. The first visit with your endocrinologist is going to involve paperwork and information gathering. The endocrinologist will take a full medical, social, family, and surgical history.
The medical history will ask about your allergies, illnesses, immunizations, past hospitalizations, diet habits, exercise habits, whether you smoke, drink alcohol, or do illicit drugs, family history and any surgeries you have had in the past.
The endocrinologist will complete a full physical exam. A physical exam includes:
- Vital signs
- Blood pressure
- Breathing rate
- Pulse rate
A physical exam also includes:
- Vision check
- Eyes, ears, nose, and throat exam
- Listening to heart and lung sounds with a stethoscope
- Gastrointestinal, neurological, cardiovascular, respiratory, and skin exam
The endocrinologist will also feel your lymph nodes on your neck.
Bloodwork may also be performed on your first visit. Some bloodwork that may be performed on your first visit includes:
- Blood glucose (sugar) test
- Complete blood count
- Complete chemistry count
- Various hormones
- Vitamin D
You may also be asked to give a urine sample. Urine samples can detect protein, sugar, or bacteria in the urine. These tests are standard, and you should not become worried if blood is taken at the endocrinologist appointment.
The endocrinologist will need a current list of prescription medications you take. Also include supplements, over-the-counter medications, and vitamins that you take. Make sure to bring your current list of prescription medications to the appointment, the dose and last time you took the medication.
Your endocrinologist may also want any medical journals or logs you have kept such as a weight log, diet log, blood glucose level log or blood pressure log.
Get Thyroid Treatment Online
If you have symptoms of an endocrine disorder an affordable and convenient place to start is with a primary care physician at PlushCare.
The doctor will work with you to determine the best medication for you to take and will check on you to ensure the care plan is working. If needed, you will be referred to a specialist such as an endocrinologist.
Common medications our doctors prescribe for endocrine disorders are:
You can book an appointment here, or download the free PlushCare mobile app. The average appointment lasts just 15 minutes and 97% of conditions are successfully treated on the first visit.
Read More About Endocrinologists
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Public health matters blog. Endocrine disorders. REtireved from https://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/tag/endocrine-disorders/
Hinkle, J.L., & Cheever, K.H. (2018). Assessment and management of patients with endocrine disorders. Brunner & Suddarth’s textbook of medical-surgical nursing (1539). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.