What Does an Endocrinologist Do?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on May 15, 2024
7 min read

Endocrinologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating disorders of the endocrine system. Your endocrine system is made up of the different organs or glands that make and release hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers that coordinate the functions of your skin, muscles, and other organs.

The organs in your endocrine system make over 50 different hormones and include your:

  • Adrenal glands
  • Parathyroid glands
  • Pineal gland
  • Pituitary gland
  • Thyroid gland
  • Pancreas
  • Hypothalamus
  • Ovaries
  • Testes

Conditions that an endocrinologist can help diagnose and treat include:

Metabolic conditions, such as

  • Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
  • Gestational diabetes (caused by pregnancy)
  • Pancreatic diabetes (caused by pancreatitis)
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome (having at least three of the following: high blood pressure, fasting blood sugar, triglycerides, belly fat, and low levels of HDL or "good" cholesterol)

Thyroid conditions, such as:

  • Goiter (enlarged thyroid gland)
  • Graves' disease (an autoimmune condition that causes high thyroid hormone levels)
  • Hashimoto's disease (an autoimmune condition that causes low thyroid hormone levels)
  • Hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone)
  • Hyperthyroidism (high thyroid hormone)
  • Thyroiditis (inflammation in your thyroid)
  • Thyroid conditions you get during pregnancy
  • Thyroid masses or nodules

Endocrine cancers and tumors, such as:

  • Adrenal tumors
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Parathyroid tumors and cancer
  • Pituitary tumors
  • Thyroid cancer

Sexual development, function, and reproductive conditions, such as:

  • Hormone-related infertility
  • Menopausal disorders
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Erectile dysfunction

Calcium metabolism and bone conditions, such as:

  • Hypercalcemia (high calcium levels)
  • Hypocalcemia (low calcium levels)
  • Osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Metabolic bone disease

Endocrinologists and adrenal conditions

Adrenal conditions affect your adrenal glands, which sit on top of your kidneys. These glands make cortisol, aldosterone, adrenaline, and other hormones that control your metabolism, immune system, blood glucose, and blood pressure. If your adrenal glands make too much or too little of these hormones, you can get very sick. Generally, if you have an adrenal condition, you will be treated by an endocrinologist, often alongside another specialist.


Osteoporosis is a bone condition that you get when your bone mineral density and bone mass decrease. This may cause your bones to weaken, raising your risk of broken bones. As you get older, certain hormone levels drop, which is a common cause of osteoporosis. Your family doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist if you have low bone density. They can help your doctor figure out the cause of your low bone density and a treatment plan.

Endocrinologists and cholesterol

Your hormone levels affect the way your body digests fats and your blood levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. Your endocrinologist may help manage your cholesterol levels if you have a hormone condition, such as growth hormone deficiency, diabetes, acromegaly, hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, or Cushing's syndrome.

Hypothalamus conditions

Your hypothalamus is a part of your brain that keeps your body in a state of balance called homeostasis. It does this by controlling your endocrine system to manage your hormone levels and helping control your autonomic nervous system. Your autonomic nervous system controls body processes you don't need to think about such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion. Hypothalamus conditions include hypopituitarism, Prader-Willi syndrome, Kallmann syndrome, acromegaly, central hypothyroidism, and syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone (SIADH). You will usually see an endocrinologist if you have a hypothalamus condition.

Endocrinologists and diabetes treatment

Your hormones play a vital role in metabolism or how your body digests food. One of the most common conditions that affects your metabolism is diabetes. Some endocrinologists specialize in diabetes treatment.

Pituitary gland conditions

Your pituitary gland is a small gland in your brain that makes hormones that control your other glands. Pituitary conditions can affect your thyroid function, ability to grow, and adrenal function. There's a lot of overlap with hypothalamus conditions because both your hypothalamus and pituitary gland are the major controllers of your hormone levels. Pituitary conditions include acromegaly, Cushing's syndrome, and hypopituitarism. You will usually see an endocrinologist for treatment if you have a pituitary condition. Pituitary gland conditions can be complicated to treat, so you will usually see a neurosurgeon, neuro-ophthalmologist, radiation oncologist, and otolaryngologist, as well, depending on your condition.

Endocrinologists and reproductive health

Many of your hormones are involved in sexuality and reproductive functions. Some endocrinologists specialize in treating sexual function and fertility conditions.

Endocrinologists and thyroid conditions

Your thyroid is a gland in your neck that makes the hormones that control your metabolism. Conditions that affect your thyroid include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and Graves' disease. Some endocrinologists specialize in treating thyroid conditions.

Endocrinology is a subspecialty of internal medicine.

Training for endocrinologists includes a bachelor's degree (usually 4 years), followed by medical school (also usually 4 years). After that, they complete a 2-3 year residency program in internal medicine or sometimes pediatrics to get experience treating people. After that, they get about 2-3 years of training specifically in endocrinology.

To practice, they usually must pass the American Board of Internal Medicine's board exam in internal medicine. Then, they must pass an exam in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism to become a board-certified endocrinologist.




Endocrinologists may work in:

  • A dedicated endocrine practice with other endocrinologists
  • A multispecialty group with other kinds of doctors
  • A practice that treats both endocrinology and general internal medicine patients
  • Consultant practices for other physicians or hospitals
  • Academic centers that do basic science and clinical research and teach medical students and resident trainees

Professional societies for endocrinologists include:

  • American College of Endocrinology
  • The Endocrine Society
  • American Diabetes Association

To find an endocrinologist, you can ask for a referral from your family doctor. Or, you can contact professional societies for lists of their members in your area. For instance, the Endocrine Society keeps a listing of 6,500 endocrinologists located all around the world. You can search by country, ZIP code, state, and area of specialty.


Your regular doctor can treat diabetes, but they might refer you to an endocrinologist when:

  • You've just been diagnosed with diabetes and need to learn how to manage it.
  • They don't have a lot of experience treating diabetes.
  • You take a lot of shots or use an insulin pump.
  • Your diabetes has gotten tough to manage, or your treatment isn't working.
  • You have complications from diabetes.

You can also ask to go to an endocrinologist, even if your doctor doesn't suggest it first. When you see one, you'll still need to visit your primary doctor as well. They'll work together.

If you've been diagnosed with diabetes and been referred to an endocrinologist, your doctor will likely check your feet, and run tests to check your triglycerides, cholesterol, HbA1c, and kidney functions. They'll likely ask about any symptoms you haven't discussed before. Make sure your doctor knows if you have:

  • Blurred vision
  • Skin changes
  • Mood changes, especially depression
  • Injection site reactions
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Tooth pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea

Here are some questions to ask your doctor:

  • How should I care for my feet?
  • What type of exercise should I do? Is there anything I should avoid?
  • Should I check my blood sugar before and during exercise?
  • When should I get my eyes checked?
  • Can I get a referral to a dietician?
  • When should I check my blood sugar levels? What levels are too low or too high? What should I do if my blood sugar is too low or high?
  • When should I take my medicine? What should I do if I miss a dose? What side effects should I look out for?
  • Should I get a medical alert bracelet or necklace? Should I keep glucagon at home in case my blood sugar goes too low?
  • How should I care for my diabetes while I travel or when I'm sick?
  • What vaccines should I get?

If you take insulin, you should probably see your diabetes doctor every 3 or 4 months. Otherwise, you can go a little longer between visits, every 4 to 6 months. You may have to go more often when your diabetes isn't under control, you have complications, or you have new symptoms or they get worse.

Endocrinologists are doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating disorders of the endocrine system. Your endocrine system makes and releases the hormones that control your metabolism and your ability to grow, sleep, and reproduce. Endocrinologists are highly trained doctors who become certified in internal medicine and endocrinology. They generally treat people with diabetes, thyroid disorders, and adrenal disorders.

What is the most common cause of endocrine disorders?

One of the most commonly diagnosed endocrine disorders is type 2 diabetes. This is caused by insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone that your pancreas makes to help your cells take up sugar from your blood. With insulin resistance, your cells become resistant to insulin, so your cells don't take in sugar from your blood very well. This makes your blood sugar levels rise, which can cause damage to your organs and increase your risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and vision loss. About 38 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and about 90%-95% of these people have type 2 diabetes.