Endocrine disorders involve an abnormality of one of the body’s endocrine glands. Among the endocrine disorders, thyroid problems are the most common.
Thyroid underactivity/overactivity: Of the endocrine disorders, thyroid diseases are the most common. Effective treatment of thyroid over-activity (hyperthyroidism) and under-activity (hypothyroidism) is important in both the short term and long term. Although treating underactive thyroid is a bit more complex, either condition can be treated effectively.
Thyroid growths: Most thyroid growths do not have serious consequences. A technique called “fine-needle aspiration” can be used to identify the minority of thyroid growths that are cancerous. The technique involves insertion of a small needle into the thyroid growth and withdrawing a small amount of fluid — much like drawing a blood sample from a vein. Cells in that fluid are then examined under a microscope.
Other endocrine disorders: Disorders of the other endocrine glands are less common. The expertise of an endocrinologist often is needed to select the most efficient diagnostic approach, assess the need for treatment, select the best treatment approach, and assure a favorable outcome.
Diabetes mellitus: Diabetes mellitus is the most common endocrine/metabolic disorder. It affects 6.5% of the U.S. population. It is more common as we age and is more prevalent in African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans. Although the disease is potentially devastating, it is now well established that comprehensive treatment makes a difference in the health of diabetics in the short-term and the long term. It prevents or delays complications that can lead to blindness, kidney failure or amputations, as well as the nonspecific complications such as heart attack or stroke that often occur in people with diabetes.
Endocrinologists’ goal is to prevent complications or, failing that, to recognize complications early when they can be treated effectively. This includes controlling blood sugar, blood cholesterol and blood pressure, as well as detecting early damage to the eyes, kidneys and nerves.
Hyperlipidemia: It is now well established that lowering high cholesterol levels reduces the risk of death from a heart attack, which is the single most common cause of death in our society.
Osteoporosis: Thin bones can lead to debilitating bone fractures. Osteoporosis can be largely prevented. Even established osteoporosis can now be treated.