What is Endocrinology?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Endocrinology is the study of the endocrine system, which refers to the body’s glands—organs that make hormones—and the hormones they produce, how they function, and their disorders. Endocrinology is also the branch of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of endocrine disorders. Doctors who specialize in endocrinology are called endocrinologists.

Several abdominal organs, including the pancreas.
Several abdominal organs, including the pancreas.

Endocrinology is also the name of the journal published by the Endocrine Society. Articles in the journal are on topics such as growth factors, reproduction, neuroendocrinology, steroids, the thyroid, and physiology. The journal is published monthly. The society’s other journals are Endocrine News, Endocrine Reviews, Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, and Molecular Endocrinology.

The hypothalamus and pituitary are glands of the endocrine.
The hypothalamus and pituitary are glands of the endocrine.

There are several specialties within the medical field of endocrinology. Reproductive endocrinologists may primarily focus on fertility problems and menstrual function. Pediatric endocrinologists specialize in endocrine disorders as they affect children, while adult endocrinologists focus on those disorders outside the reproductive area that affect adults.

Endocrinology studies the body's glands, organs that make hormones, and the hormones that are produced.
Endocrinology studies the body's glands, organs that make hormones, and the hormones that are produced.

The glands of the endocrine system are the adrenal gland, the hypothalamus, the ovaries, the pancreas, the parathyroid, the pituitary, the testes, and the thyroid. The hormones produced by the endocrine system are essential in many of the body’s activities. These activities include reproduction, metabolism, growth, and development.

Endocrinologists are sometimes consulted about problems related to high blood pressure.
Endocrinologists are sometimes consulted about problems related to high blood pressure.

When something goes wrong in the endocrine system or the hormones are out of balance, a person may need to seek a specialist in endocrinology. Examples of conditions for which endocrinologists are often consulted include Addison’s disease, amenorrhea, diabetes mellitus, endocrine gland cancers, gender dysphoria, goiter, growth disorders, hermaphroditism, hyperparathyroidism, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, hypoglycemia, hypopituitarism, hypothyroidism, infertility, lipid disorders such as high cholesterol, menopause symptoms, metabolic disorders, osteoporosis, and rickets. Some of these conditions may not be directly caused by endocrine system issues, but endocrinology may still be involved in the treatment.

Endocrinologists often consult with patients who have osteoporosis.
Endocrinologists often consult with patients who have osteoporosis.

Diagnosis of endocrine disorders often involves testing. The response and function of a gland can be ascertained by stimulating or inhibiting it and checking the results through blood analysis. In addition, normal variations in growth and development must be distinguished from differences that signal an underlying disorder.

The ovaries are part of the endocrine system.
The ovaries are part of the endocrine system.

Treatment for endocrine system problems may involve a number of different strategies. In some cases, hormones may be blocked or replaced. These approaches are used when the endocrine gland in question is hyperactive and hypoactive respectively, producing too much or too little hormone. Alterations in diet may be another treatment, as may prescribed medication and exercise.

The thyroid gland is a part of endocrinology.
The thyroid gland is a part of endocrinology.
The pituitary is one of the main glands of the endocrine system.
The pituitary is one of the main glands of the endocrine system.
Endocrinologists may be concerned with the symptoms of menopause.
Endocrinologists may be concerned with the symptoms of menopause.
Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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