Definition & Overview
Endocrinology is a branch of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of conditions that affect the endocrine glands. The endocrine system is composed of a group of glands that produces and regulates hormones. These include the pituitary glands, gonads, adrenal glands, parathyroid glands, pancreas, and thyroid glands. The hormones they produce regulate crucial functions including reproduction, growth, blood pressure, and metabolism. When a gland fails to produce the required amount of a certain hormone, or produces more than what is required, other organs of the body are affected and this results in a variety of medical conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension, thyroid disorders, and infertility to name a few.
An endocrinology consultation focuses on identifying the probable cause/s of the problem and recommending an ideal treatment method.
Who Should Undergo & Expected Results
In most cases, patients who undergo endocrinology consultation were referred by their family or primary care doctors. However, it is also possible to consult an endocrinologist without any referral particularly if you have been previously diagnosed with an endocrinology-related condition such as diabetes and require adjustments in your treatment plan.
Endocrinology consultation is beneficial for patients who have or suspected of having the following conditions:
- Adrenal disorders
- Cushing’s disease
- Diabetes mellitus
- Rheumatic disorders
- Thyroid disorders
- Multiple endocrine neoplasia
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
How Does the Procedure Work?
As the success of the consultation (obtain an accurate diagnosis) depends on the patient’s input, you are encouraged to prepare for the appointment. You may elect to note the following details to ensure that you’ll be able to provide the endocrinologist all crucial information:
- Symptoms, including their severity and when they started
- Medications that you’ve taken before and currently taking
- Your and your family’s medical history of diseases
- Lifestyle (whether you exercise, drink, smoke, etc.)
The consultation involves a short interview and physical examination to look for visible evidence of your condition, such as swollen extremities, rashes, skin discoloration, and tenderness in certain areas. Depending on the results of these tests, you may receive a diagnosis and treatment plan may be discussed. However, if the test results are inconclusive, more diagnostic tests will be ordered to measure the levels of different hormones in your body, to assess the function of your endocrine glands or to identify the cause of the problem.
Common tests performed include:
- ACTH stimulation test
- 24-hour urine collection test
- CRH stimulation test
- Fine-needle aspiration biopsy
- Glucose sensor test (for diabetes)
- Semen analysis
- TSH blood test
- Thyroid scan
Possible Risks and Complications
The biggest risk of an endocrinology consultation is a misdiagnosis of your condition. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as incorrect test results or misleading information provided by the patient.
Meanwhile, certain tests also carry risks and possible complications, which will be discussed by the specialist before they are even initiated.
- The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists
- American Association of Clinical Chemistry, Lab Tests Online: "Endocrine Syndr