Endocrinology is the field of medicine concerned with the body's hormonal system and endocrine glands—and the functions dependant on hormones. Few fields are as broadly important to as many aspects of physical health as this discipline, because hormones control or influence so much of the body's status, wellness, development and processes.
Endocrine function, for example, has a profound effect on blood pressure, weight, cardiovascular health and fertility. The interactions of hormones, and their effect on health, are complex and require highly specialized knowledge to understand, evaluate and treat. Lourdes has a deep commitment to this area of medical care, maintaining a staff of well-trained, experienced endocrinologists who care for a large and diverse population of patients.
The clinical care that Lourdes endocrinologists offer includes these areas:
- Diabetes. This prevalent disease is tied to the function of the pancreas and to responsiveness of the body to the insulin that this organ produces. Insulin production and the responsiveness of the body's tissues to this hormone's signals--which tell the body to convert and absorb blood sugar in muscle and other cells--determines whether an individual has healthy, normal glucose control. Endocrinologists have a critical role in evaluating this function and helping to treat it when it begins to fail or ceases to function properly (causing diabetes). As specialists in this area, endocrinologists are key clinicians at Lourdes in caring for patients with insulin resistance, prediabetes, metabolic syndrome or type I or type II diabetes.
Thyroid disorders. Though the thyroid (located
in the front of the neck, at about bowtie level) may not be a big organ,
it is one of the largest endocrine glands and it's physiologic role is a
major one. It produces hormones involved in the complicated control of
metabolism (how the body uses and stores energy from food and in tissues)
and of growth and maintenance of muscular and skeletal tissue (including
bones). In this, it influences how fast the body burns energy, how it
builds or uses up its protein tissues, and how responsive it is to other
Sitting on the surface of the thyroid are a set of four much smaller endocrine glands called the parathyroids that, in a related function, influence calcium and potassium levels in the body and affect bone metabolism, including by activating vitamin D and thus stimulating calcium absorption digestively. Parathyroid disorder, particularly parathyroid overactivity, is also an important area of care in endocrinology.
Endocrinologists can evaluate signs and symptoms of disorders in these glands. They can recommend medical or surgical care to intervene in these conditions.
Osteoporosis. Hormones significantly
influence bone metabolism—the
building of new bone material and the breakdown of existing bone. This
means that endocrinology is an important type of specialty care for
osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become brittle because bone tissue
Endocrinologists make significant use of radiologic bone scanning, referring patients for this essential test at Lourdes and reviewing results and care options with them. Hormonal intervention, vitamin D supplementation and other treatments can help to control "brittle-bone disease."
Adrenal and pituitary disorders. The
adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys, secrete hormones that
- energy and response to stress;
- blood electrolytes;
- heart function;
- and, in women, sexual activity and secondary sexual characteristics.
The pituitary gland, which resides in the lower portion of the brain, releases a diverse set of hormones that influence metabolism and the activities of a number of other endocrine glands and other organs, including the thyroid, adrenal cortex, ovaries, gonads and kidneys. Endocrinologists know how to evaluate the complicated interplay of these systems and provide care for certain abnormalities.
- Male- and female-specific endocrinology. A number of hormones and hormone systems are, of course, relevant primarily in women or in men. For example, low testosterone is an issue for men, although as a supplement it can be useful for men or women. Estrogen is a female hormone (present in lesser amounts in men) of major importance for women and it affects many bodily systems, including those related to menstruation and menopause. Endocrinologists are particularly knowledgeable about and attuned to gender-specific hormonal conditions and can provide beneficial forms of care.
Endocrinologists on staff at Lourdes work closely with their patients to identify, diagnose and sort out matters related to endocrine function. They collaborate with primary-care physicians and with other specialists who refer to them or with whom they may collaborate for additional care for patients.
They confer and team with family doctors, radiologists, endocrine surgeons, obsterician/gynecologists, gynecologic surgeons, urologists, nephrologists and other physicians experienced in evaluating and treating the conditions above.