Endocrinologists and Diabetics

Have you been referred to an endocrinologist? If you are a diabetic, an endocrinologist can play an important role on your health care team. This medical specialty focuses on glands and hormones, both of which must be monitored in diabetics.

Endocrinology

The endocrine system is the physiological system that produces many of the hormones in your body. Hormones travel via the blood and act as messengers throughout the cells in the body. The insulin hormone works to ensure that energy from the food you eat flows through the blood to your muscles, your body fat, and your liver. A person whose body does not produce enough insulin is at risk of developing diabetes. This means that the body can no longer control the levels of sugar in the blood.

An endocrinologist is a physician who specializes in treating the endocrine system, hormones, and metabolic disorders that affect the endocrine system. Diabetes is the number one endocrine disease.[1]

An endocrinologist utilizes laboratory tests such as blood work and urine tests, physical exams, and other diagnostic methods to diagnose and treat diabetes. They can give advice on proper diet and nutrition, healthy lifestyles, exercise, and other preventative measures for diabetics. Plus, an endocrinologist can prescribe medications like insulin to treat this condition and provide patients with long-term care.

Choosing an Endocrinologist

If your doctor has referred you to an endocrinologist, it is important to not procrastinate. The majority of diabetics see an endocrinologist when they are having difficulty managing their diabetes. You may also choose to see a specialist if you are having specific symptoms related to your diabetes that include neuropathy, excessive hunger or thirst, or constant urination. All of these symptoms are warning signs that your diabetes may in the danger level and you need to see a specialist.

You will be visiting your endocrinologist multiple times every year, so you will want to choose a physician with whom you feel comfortable. Ask yourself if you would be uncomfortable discussing certain situations. Remember, it is more than a question of whether or not they take your insurance!

Best Practices: You do not have to look for the youngest endocrinologist, but you do want to look for one who is up-to-date on all the latest research and methods of treatment. Endocrinology is an ever-changing field, like most medical fields, and you will want to choose a physician who keeps current and can offer you the latest medicines and other important health treatments for your diabetes.

Lab Work: Many endocrinologists have laboratories in their offices. On average, you will have blood work done every three to four months to determine the progress of your diabetes. It is extremely convenient to have a doctor who has a lab in his office.

Your First Visit

If you have been referred to an endocrinologist by your primary care physician, he or she will transfer your medical records and copies of recent blood work. The endocrinologist will use this information, and information gathered at your first visit, to develop a management plan for your diabetes.

Your first visit to the endocrinologist will include an interview during which the doctor will take a complete medical history. Following this, the endocrinologist will perform a physical exam.

During the physical exam, the endocrinologist will look at specific areas of your body for signs of diabetic related symptoms. He or she will check your mouth and teeth for infections and will check your feet for diabetic ulcers.[2] You will also be given a simple test for diabetic neuropathy, a loss of feeling in the nerves.[3] Blood work and a urine test will be performed.

Finally, you and the endocrinologist will discuss treatment goals and begin to develop a diabetes management plan.

Be prepared to ask questions at this first meeting. Write down any concerns you may have about your condition. Feel free to ask what steps the endocrinologist will take next in your treatment. You may want to ask about further testing, other treatment options, and who will be involved in your treatment.

An endocrinologist can become a crucial member of your professional diabetes management team. He or she will work closely with your primary care physician, your dietician, and other health care professionals such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists to make sure you are able to manage your disease.[4]

References

[1]  Endocrine Disease. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Library of Medicine: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/endocrinediseases.html

[2]  American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists medical guidelines for clinical practice for developing a diabetes mellitus comprehensive care plan. (n.d.). Retrieved from U.S Department of Health and Human Services: http://guidelines.gov/content.aspx?id=34038

[3] Ibid

[4]  Redesigning the Health Care Team. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Institute of Health: http://ndep.nih.gov/media/TeamCare.pdf

This article was originally published July 12, 2012 and last revision and update of it was 9/10/2015.