An endocrinologist is a medical doctor with special training and skills in disorders that involve the endocrine system.
The endocrine system is a complex group of organs – called endocrine glands – that make hormones and pass them into the bloodstream. The glands in the endocrine system include the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals, ovaries, testes and pancreas.
Hormones control reproduction, metabolism, growth and development. When the normal balance of hormones in the body is upset for some reason, endocrinologists help to get the balance back. They do this in many ways, most often by prescribing medication, which can either increase or decrease hormone levels.
Endocrinologists regularly use blood tests of hormone levels to assess how well glands are working in the body.
Some paediatricians do further training in and study of the endocrine system so they can become paediatric endocrinologists. This means they specialise in the hormonal problems that affect children, especially in relation to growth, diabetes and metabolism.
Why your child might see an endocrinologist
Your child might see an endocrinologist if it looks like she has a condition like type-1 diabetes, type-2 diabetes, disorders of metabolism, thyroid disease, changed hormone production, slow growth or bone diseases.
If your child has an endocrine disorder, he might need to see an endocrinologist regularly throughout life. This depends on your child’s condition – some conditions need long-term follow-up, whereas others can be sorted out in one or two appointments.
Endocrinologists are experts at treating chronic conditions while also understanding the personal situations of the people they’re treating and the impact chronic conditions can have.
Before going to an endocrinologist
Before seeing the endocrinologist, it’s a good idea to find out some information about the following things:
- Why you’re going to the endocrinologist: talk with your GP about why your child needs to see an endocrinologist and whether there’s anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment.
- Waiting list: how long before you can get an appointment to see the endocrinologist?
- Making an appointment: it might take you more than one phone call to make an appointment.
- Cost: how much will the appointment with the endocrinologist cost? It might be expensive, so you could check whether you can get money back from Medicare or private health insurance.
- Location: find out where you have to go to see the endocrinologist – for example, a public or private hospital, or consulting rooms. You might have to travel further than you expect, depending on your child’s needs.
You can talk about these things and any other questions you have with your GP before you go to the endocrinologist. You could also ask the endocrinologist’s clinic when you make your appointment. It’s a good idea to write down any questions you have, so you don’t forget.