Endocrinology is the study of the endocrine system, which refers to the body’s glands—organs that make hormones—and the hormones they produce, how they function, and their disorders. Endocrinology is also the branch of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of endocrine disorders. Doctors who specialize in endocrinology are called endocrinologists.
Endocrinology is also the name of the journal published by the Endocrine Society. Articles in the journal are on topics such as growth factors, reproduction, neuroendocrinology, steroids, the thyroid, and physiology. The journal is published monthly. The society’s other journals are Endocrine News, Endocrine Reviews, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, and Molecular Endocrinology.
There are several specialties within the medical field of endocrinology. Reproductive endocrinologists may primarily focus on fertility problems and menstrual function. Pediatric endocrinologists specialize in endocrine disorders as they affect children, while adult endocrinologists focus on those disorders outside the reproductive area that affect adults.
The glands of the endocrine system are the adrenal gland, the hypothalamus, the ovaries, the pancreas, the parathyroid, the pituitary, the testes, and the thyroid. The hormones produced by the endocrine system are essential in many of the body’s activities. These activities include reproduction, metabolism, growth, and development.
When something goes wrong in the endocrine system or the hormones are out of balance, a person may need to seek a specialist in endocrinology. Examples of conditions for which endocrinologists are often consulted include Addison’s disease, amenorrhea, diabetes mellitus, endocrine gland cancers, gender dysphoria, goiter, growth disorders, hermaphroditism, hyperparathyroidism, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, hypoglycemia, hypopituitarism, hypothyroidism, infertility, lipid disorders such as high cholesterol, menopause symptoms, metabolic disorders, osteoporosis, and rickets. Some of these conditions may not be directly caused by endocrine system issues, but endocrinology may still be involved in the treatment.
Diagnosis of endocrine disorders often involves testing. The response and function of a gland can be ascertained by stimulating or inhibiting it and checking the results through blood analysis. In addition, normal variations in growth and development must be distinguished from differences that signal an underlying disorder.
Treatment for endocrine system problems may involve a number of different strategies. In some cases, hormones may be blocked or replaced. These approaches are used when the endocrine gland in question is hyperactive and hypoactive respectively, producing too much or too little hormone. Alterations in diet may be another treatment, as may prescribed medication and exercise.