Endocrinologist: The Specialist in the Comprehensive Care of Diabetes

By Yehuda Handelsman, MD, FACP, FACE

An endocrinologist [en-doh-cri-NA-lo-jist] is a doctor who is an expert in diagnosing and treating hormone and metabolism disorders. An endocrinologist is also an educator to the medical community and a resource to the public in general.

Endocrinologists recognize and manage medical conditions associated with the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, sex hormones, growth hormone, bone health, lipid disorders, and other hormone conditions. Because there are so many people with obesity and diabetes, there is a huge demand for endocrinologists, who are experts in preventing and managing obesity, diabetes, and the potential complications of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.

Even today people view diabetes as a simple issue of a “little” too much glucose (sugar) or “a touch of sugar.” Diabetes should be viewed as a complex medical condition that may affect every part of the body. For example, diabetes is considered as similar to heart disease from not just elevated blood sugar (hyperglycemia [hie-per-gly-SEEM-ee-ah]), but also by the added problems of blood pressure, cholesterol, and increased risk of blood clots.

There are at least 11 classes of medication for treatment of high blood sugars. There are also many drugs to treat blood pressure and lipid (cholesterol) problems. It takes a trained expert to know which treatments should be recommended and how best to put these treatments together for the best results for a specific person.

Of course, the best treatment of diabetes is prevention. An endocrinologist is an expert in how to help you modify your lifestyle. An endocrinologist can help you with understanding nutrition and meal choices. The endocrinologist typically directs a team who helps you to increase your physical activity and who educate you in how to manage your health. Managing obesity to reduce heart disease risk can be challenging!

Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems, and heart disease affect nearly 150 million people in the United States. The endocrinologist is a leader in education to both the medical and patient communities. He or she teaches others how to manage complex treatment programs. The endocrinologist develops, trains, and leads teams of professionals. The team can include primary care physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nutritionists, diabetes educators, pharmacists, and fitness experts.

An endocrinologist does clinical research, some of which is published and is viewed by all of the medical community. Endocrinologists help develop diagnostic and treatment guidelines.

So as you look for a doctor to help you with your diabetes health issues and questions, look for an endocrinologist, the specialist in the care of hormone disorders, such as diabetes and weight disorders!

Dr. Yehuda Handelsman is an endocrinologist practicing in Tarzana, California, and Medical Director and Principal Investigator for the Metabolic Institute of America. Dr. Handelsman serves as Vice President of AACE and Chair of the AACE Diabetes Council. He has assisted in developing various Association guidelines, position statements and the 2009 AACE Diabetes Algorithm. Dr. Handelsman is Chair and Program Director of the World Congress on Insulin Resistance, Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease. He serves as Associate Editor of the Journal of Diabetes and is an authority on management of prediabetes, diabetes and prevention of cardiovascular disease.