Hormones control many bodily functions, including growth, metabolism, mood, and reproduction. When hormones become imbalanced, hormonal disorders can occur and disrupt people’s lives in myriad ways. Such disorders are serious medical situations that require the services of an endocrinologist, a doctor specializing in hormones and the metabolic system. Endocrinologists understand the key role metabolism plays in managing every human function and the many ways hormones influence the body’s wellness and performance.
Here are some common metabolic disorders and the many ways endocrinologists and a care team can help patients overcome these disorders and thrive.
Hyperthyroidism: The thyroid gland produces too much hormone. Symptoms include weight loss, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, insomnia, and sweating. Treatment can include removal of the thyroid, radioactive therapy, medications, and other treatments deemed necessary by an endocrinologist.
Hypothyroidism: The thyroid gland does not produce enough hormones. Symptoms include weight gain, dry skin, depression, fatigue, and other signs. Treatment includes hormone replacement medications as recommended by a specialist endocrinologist who will tailor treatment plans to the patient’s key characteristics.
Diabetes: A common disorder that happens when the body does not produce enough insulin or is unable to use it properly. Insulin regulates blood sugar, and high levels can cause heart disease, damage nerves, and disrupt proper kidney function. Treatment includes management of blood sugar through medication, weight loss, insulin therapy, and dietary changes, depending on the type of diabetes involved:
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin injections every day to survive and need to work closely with an endocrinologist to stay on track.
- Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin. Type 2 diabetes often responds to diet, exercise, and oral medications, but might require insulin management as well.
An endocrinologist will discuss diabetes information with a patient and to prescribe a complete diabetes treatment plan that optimizes their health and lowers their risk of major health problems.
Infertility: For women assigned female at birth, hormonal imbalances are the top cause of infertility. Conditions include PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects women of reproductive age. It occurs when the ovaries produce too much androgen, a male hormone. This can then interfere with ovulation and form cysts on the ovaries, which prevents fertilization. Symptoms include acne, weight gain, hair growth, and irregular periods. Managing the condition involves weight loss, medication, and fertility treatments, which require an endocrinologist and other doctors to prepare and maintain the treatment regimen.
Hypogonadism: A metabolism-based condition afflicting both men and women when their glands do not produce enough testosterone or estrogen. These are the primary sex hormones and can drive symptoms including lowered sex drive, infertility, erectile dysfunction, and lowered bone density. Endocrinologists are crucial for both diagnosing and addressing hypogonadism.
If you are experiencing symptoms of a hormonal/metabolic disorder, it is important to see an endocrinologist who can develop a proper diagnosis and craft a personalized care regimen. Dr. Brian Fertig is a respected endocrinologist and author of the two-part book “Metabolism & Medicine,” which offers readers detailed information about various human processes and how they relate to aging and chronic diseases. Dr. Fertig’s work details the interconnectedness of metabolic processes and disease, providing greater context and understanding for physicians, nutritionists, and other providers.