Diabetes is a disease that is fairly common amongst the human population today. It afflicts around 10.5% of the US population as of 2020, according to a report published by the CDC. Around 26.9 million people have been diagnosed, while around 21.4% go undiagnosed. The disease affects people of all age groups: children, adults, and the elderly. Around 88 million people aged 18 or above have prediabetes.
If you've heard of the condition, you must have heard the terms diabetes and endocrinology clinic together quite often. Diabetes and endocrinology is a broad specialty that involves the diagnosis of the condition as well as its treatment. Diabetes is a chronic condition that is caused by abnormalities in hormone production or action, and the endocrine glands are responsible for that production. It affects how the body turns food into energy.
Endocrinologists specialize in hormones and the glands that produce them. They are particularly interested in metabolism and the biochemical processes which help the body function, grow and break down food into energy for sustenance and activity. Endocrinologists work with children and adults, but when they specialize in treating children, they are known as pediatric endocrinologists.
Endocrinologists have a vast scope, and they cover various conditions that afflict:
Adrenal glands: are found on top of the kidneys. The adrenal glands help stabilize a wide variety of things, such as your body's response to stress, the production of sex hormones, your blood pressure, and your metabolism.
Bone metabolism: like osteoporosis
Cholesterol found in your blood
Hypothalamus: which is the part of your brain responsible for controlling hunger, thirst, and body temperature.
Pancreas: the organ responsible for making insulin, which helps the absorption of sugars in your blood. It also produces other substances. This is where the link between diabetes and endocrinology specialists comes in.
You can find an endocrinologist on the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists’ website.
Some of them work in a medical practice set up with other members of the same fraternity, or in a group of different doctors. You can also find one in various hospitals. However, some diabetes and endocrinology consultants may not see patients. They may work as professors or researchers in medical schools and universities where they teach medical students or conduct research on diabetes and endocrinology.
While a regular doctor can treat your diabetes, a patient may have to see a specialist in any number of situations, including:
The patient is newly diagnosed and needs to learn how to navigate the condition and manage it effectively
The doctor doesn't have a lot of experience in managing diabetes
The patient takes a lot of insulin shots or has to use an insulin pump
Diabetes has derailed the patient’s lifestyle and has become tough to manage effectively
The treatment plan isn't working properly as desired results aren't being seen
The patient has complications from diabetes
You can also ask to see an endocrinologist on your own. However, you do need to see your primary care doctor as well because the two work together.
There are different guidelines for managing diabetes according to age and type:
Pediatric endocrinologists: give children a diabetes management plan with several features, like insulin pumps, changes in diet and eating patterns, getting regular exercise or body movement, monitoring blood sugar levels, injections, and using continuous glucose monitors. The main goal here is to get the child used to a new way of living. They must become comfortable with new patterns and rules so that they can manage their problems effectively and prevent serious complications from occurring in the future. The main goal here is to maintain diabetes as it is and prevent it from getting more serious.
Adults: Over time, the effects of diabetes can become much more complicated. The condition can lead to extremely serious, life-threatening problems throughout the body. You can be at risk for heart disease and stroke amongst other conditions. It is imperative to take vigilant care of yourself and manage your diabetes effectively.
Elderly: Patients who are aged 65 and older with newly diagnosed diabetes should work with a primary care provider and a multidisciplinary team to develop their individual treatment goals so that the approach is well-rounded and holistic, keeping in mind all the conditions of their body. In addition, it is imperative that for this group, an endocrinologist be responsible for taking care of type 1 diabetes. The same is the case for patients who need complex hyperglycemia treatment, have severe hypoglycemia, or have other competing diabetes conditions.