The most common reason to see an endocrinologist is for one
of the most common diseases in the world: diabetes mellitus. Endocrinologists
are specialists who have studied the hormones that control the different
functions of the body, including the hormones produced by the pancreas that
help control blood sugar.
Some patients prefer to stay with their primary care
physicians to manage their diabetes or other hormonal problems, but if your
diabetes is serious or complicated, you might need to see an endocrinologist.
Endocrinology is the study of the glands that release
hormones into the bloodstream to control specific body functions. These include
the thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary, ovary, testis, pancreas, adrenal, and
hypothalamus glands. Endocrinologists can diagnose and treat many different
diseases, such as Graves’ disease, Cushing's disease, and hypothyroidism, but
they are most commonly tapped for their expertise in treating diabetes.
Many endocrinologists also help couples with infertility, as
they are experts in the hormones that control conception. They are also the
doctors of choice for dealing with growth problems and certain forms of
When choosing an endocrinologist, it is important to know a
particular doctor’s subspecialty so that you can match it to your needs.
What to Look For
In addition to knowing an endocrinologist’s subspecialty,
you must know whether the doctor is accepted by your health insurance company.
Some companies require a referral to a specialist from your primary doctor.
When a decision has been made between you and your healthcare provider that you need to see an enicronologist, be sure to see a
board-certified endocrinologist—this is a doctor who has been certified to
practice in that niche by a medical specialty board. Ask your primary healthcare provider,
family members, or friends for recommendations to endocrinologists they have
worked with. The Internet can also provide details about a doctor's reputation.
Simply typing a name into a search engine can bring back information on what
other patients experienced. Issues such as doctor friendliness, wait time, and
office staff competency are often rated by various websites. The American
Medical Association, the American Board of Medical Specialties, and the
American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists might also be able to give
you information on a doctor's background.
Questions to Ask
When you finally find an endocrinologist in the subspecialty
you need who is approved by your insurance and board certified, you should
still proceed with caution. You need to interview prospective doctors to find
out if you will be comfortable working together. The Joslin Diabetes Center
recommends that you find a doctor with whom you can build a trusting, long-term
relationship. If you are going to an endocrinologist for your diabetes, you
will have to share your eating goals, your weight struggles, and your mistakes.
If you are afraid of your doctor's wrath or uncomfortable talking to him or her
about how to manage your diabetes, the relationship will not be successful.
Ask prospective doctors about their philosophy on weight
control and how they will help you to control your weight. Find out how closely
they will want you to track your blood sugars and how tightly they want them
controlled. Different doctors have different opinions on how low they want
blood sugars to get, and you may not agree with someone’s philosophy.
You will also want to question prospective doctors about how
often you will get to see them and how often you will see ancillary staff, such
as nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants. These professionals are
qualified to see you, but sometimes you might want to see your actual doctor.
In the end, you need to ask enough questions to ensure that the doctor is
someone you trust with your life because managing diabetes is a life or death