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What is Pediatric Endocrinology?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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Pediatric endocrinology is a branch of medicine. It deals with the physical growth and sexual development of children and adolescents. These doctors also diagnose, manage and treat diabetes and other disorders of the endocrine glands in children ranging from infancy to adolescence. Some specific disorders and conditions a pediatric endocrinologist may diagnose or treat include adrenal hypoplasia, androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, cerebral salt-wasting syndrome (CSWS), Graves disease, glucocorticoid therapy and Cushing syndrome, hypophosphatemic rickets, Laron syndrome, McCune-Albright syndrome and Nelson syndrome.

Pediatric endocrinologists deal with type 1 diabetes. This disease makes up at least half the cases a general clinic practice will manage. Other more common problems pediatric endocrinologists typically treat are growth disorders, intersex disorders, hypoglycemia, issues with puberty, obesity and thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal problems. Pediatric endocrinologists may also specialize in inborn errors of the metabolism, adolescent gynecology, lipid metabolism and bone metabolism.

Typically this type of endocrinologist completes four years of medical school, three years of medical residency, and three years or more of fellowship training in pediatric endocrinology in order to practice. They may establish their practices in a variety of locations, including children's hospitals, community hospitals, private offices, and university medical centers. If a child requires the services of an endocrinologist, his or her regular pediatrician will normally make a referral.

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Lawson Wilkins, an American physician and professor of pediatrics, is credited as the pioneer of pediatric endocrinology. From the late 1940s to the mid-1960s he created the department at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the Harriet Lane Home in Baltimore. Born to a general practitioner, Wilkins devoted his clinic to problems of growth and genetics. His book The Diagnosis and Treatment of Endocrine Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence became a reference for pediatric endocrinologists everywhere.

Pediatric endocrinologists in the United States may belong to the Lawson Wilkins Pediatric Endocrine Society. Other international professional organizations include the Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group, the British Society for Paediatric Endocrinology, the European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology, and the Japanese Society for Pediatric Endocrinology. Nurses who specialize in pediatric endocrinology may belong to the Pediatric Endocrinology Nursing Society.

Many nonprofit organizations and other societies that promote research and funding for endocrinology projects, as well as aid for patients. These include the Magic Foundation for Children's Growth, the Human Growth Foundation, Turner Syndrome Society and the Endocrine Society. Some endocrinology publications include Endocrine Today, the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism, and the International Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology.

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golf07
Post 3

My younger sister has struggled with diabetes since she was a young girl. When she was growing up she spent quite a bit of time at her pediatric endocrinologists office.

They were very understanding and informative when it came to her care. It can be really hard for young people to make the right choices when it comes to the foods they can and can't eat.

Having an endocrinologist who understood what children were going through made a big difference in the attitude my sister had towards the whole thing.

jennythelib
Post 2

@SailorJerry - What a fascinating story! My family is well acquainted with the pediatric endocrinology specialty as well because we have a history of Type I diabetes. I feel like I spend half my childhood in the waiting room there while my brother got seen. He was quite ill as a child; for instance, he kept getting fungal infections of his sinuses.

Fortunately, his diabetes is well-controlled now. He's actually on his way to becoming a doctor; he's a residency in pediatrics right now and is hoping to do a pediatric endocrinology fellowship once he finishes that. It's a lot of school, but he's committed. And he knows what he's getting into more than most people do!

He says

it's really important for kids with diabetes to learn good habits and self-management from the beginning. It's a disease they'll be living with their whole lives, and how well it is managed can make a huge difference in their health and their quality of life. And he wants to help them with that.
SailorJerry
Post 1

My cousin's baby was born last year with ambiguous genitalia. She was terrified and frankly appalled, but she was referred to a pediatric endocrinology clinic and they were quite reassuring. Apparently, problems with the genitals are much, much more common than people realize, because it's just not talked about.

What people used to almost always do was pick a sex at birth, have surgery right away, and raise the kid that way. Unfortunately, sometimes they guessed wrong! (There was a very famous case of a boy raised as a girl, although that was the result of a botched circumcision - can't remember the name but he wrote "As Nature Made Him" and lived as a man, but later committed suicide.)

The pediatric endocrinology advised my cousin to wait on the surgery. They said based on his chromosomes and certain other indicators, they thought he would identify as a boy, but it was better to wait and be sure. My cousin is raising him as a boy for now (you really have to pick one in this culture), but is keeping a close eye out for signs that he's not feeling it. Her husband is in the military, so if the son needs to "change over," well, they move a lot.

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