Diabetes, Metabolism & Endocrinology
A diabetologist is a medical practitioner who focuses on providing care to patients with diabetes. While diabetology is not a formally recognized medical specialty, people who choose to concentrate on diabetes care can be found in many regions of the world, especially in urban areas where there are large numbers of patients who need diabetes treatment. Patients with diabetes can sometimes benefit from the specialized treatment offered by a physician who only handles patients with diabetes.
These medical practitioners usually have received their training in internal medicine or pediatrics, although some are endocrinologists. After training and receiving board certification, the physician receives additional training in diabetes and begins focusing on diabetes care. Patients should be aware that because this is not a recognized medical specialty, there are no standards that must be met before a physician can identify as a diabetologist.
Patients with diabetes can be referred to a diabetologist or may seek one out independently. The physician conducts a complete clinical evaluation to learn more about the patient's specific condition and takes a patient history, collecting information about personal habits, diet, and exercise. All of this information will be used to develop a diabetes treatment plan that is tailored to the patient. Customizing treatment allows physicians to work with patients on a plan that they can realistically achieve, in contrast with plans where the treatment is dictated without regard for limitations on the part of the patient.
As a treatment plan is developed, the patient periodically meets with the diabetologist for checkups. The doctor uses diagnostic testing, examinations, and interviews to confirm that the treatment is still working for the patient and to screen for early signs of diabetes complications, like vision problems and circulatory conditions. If the patient's treatment plan needs to be adjusted, the diabetologist is involved in developing a new approach and working with the patient to implement it.
In addition to working directly with patients, diabetologists can also be involved in diabetes research. Research is used to develop new treatments and medications as well as to establish a deeper understanding of diabetes and the ways it impacts the body. Researchers can work for charitable organizations, pharmaceutical companies, clinics, and other facilities interested in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diabetes. A diabetologist can also be involved in public outreach and education to identify at-risk populations and provide them with tools for preventing and identifying diabetes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 term metabolism, derived from the Greek language, simply means change or transformation. It relates to various processes within the body that convert food and other substances into energy and other metabolic byproducts used by the body. It is a necessary function that allows our bodies to use food and other resources to maintain the working parts, repair damage, heal injury and rid the body of toxins. In other words, metabolism is a necessary process, without which living organisms would die.
Metabolism aids in digestive function as well as absorption of nutrients. It is most affected by nutrition, hydration and physical activity. Each of these items is an imperative aspect of optimum metabolic health. When any one of these is lacking, the metabolic rate decreases. Consequently, weight loss and weight maintenance are directly related to healthy metabolism.
While lowering your calorie and fat intake may be important parts of weight loss, both decrease your metabolism. It is therefore essential to stimulate the metabolic rate through other means such as routine physical activity. It is not a good idea to skip meals or to reduce calories by an extreme amount, since decreased metabolism causes the body to burn fewer calories and less fat. It may also cause your body to store excess fat in reserve.
Metabolism is also the process the body uses to break down chemicals such as drugs. When you take medication, your body employs catabolic metabolism, to break down larger molecules into smaller ones that can be more readily absorbed. Anabolic metabolism is the opposite of catabolic. It uses enzymes to structure larger molecules from smaller ones.
Metabolism is an issue in regard to other substances such as nicotine. Nicotine tends to increase the metabolic rate, which is one of the reasons some people gain weight when they quit smoking. However, by stimulating the metabolic rate through other methods, weight gain may not be a threat. Quitting smoking is best for you, so look for other ways to increase your metabolism.
The body utilizes the many complex processes that make up metabolism to facilitate physical function, assist growth, aid in healing and in essence, support life.