Almost always your initial diagnosis will start with your primary care physician, but what’s the next step ? My goal with this post is to discuss when to see an endocrinologist and why you should. Dealing with any kind of diagnosis is difficult and some things can be treated by your primary care doctor, but should they ?
What is an Endocrinologist ?
Just like the countless medical specialties out there, there are doctors that train to specifically to treat diseases that are related to the endocrine system. The endocrine system is the system of glands in the body that produce hormones that affect the following processes in the body
- Tissue function
- Growth and Development
The specific gland disorders that an Endocrinologist would treat include the following glands
- Pineal Gland
- Pituitary Gland
- Thyroid & Parathyroid Glands
- Thymus Gland
- Adrenal Glands
- Ovaries in some cases
When to See an Endocrinologist
Most times your primary doctor will direct you to have a consultation with an Endocrinologist if you either have an endocrine system diagnosis (i.e., diabetes type I or II, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism), your primary is having issues managing your condition or is having issues giving a diagnosis and needs a second opinion.
You should consider at least having a consultation at least once just to make sure you have all of your bases covered at the very minimum. They will still work with your primary care doctor to coordinate your care if that is the route that you choose after your consultation.
Reasons to See an Endocrinologist
To be honest, I feel like seeking help from any kind of physician is entirely a super personal decision. You may have reasons or doubts based on hearing about someone’s previous experience, or maybe you’ve had an experience with a specialty doctor yourself. For some cases your primary doctor may be able to manage your care given that you don’t have extreme symptoms and your lab work is for the most part stable.
An Endocrinologist has dedicated themselves to studying these specific endocrine diseases in depth and will be able to provide the best treatment options. Some people will have textbook symptoms and can be treated with textbook methods. What about the people that don’t have the textbook symptoms ? Or the people who aren’t reacting to treatment as they should ? That’s where a specialty doctor such as an Endocrinologist would be helpful as they can tailor your treatment to you specifically.
It’s still important to do your research on the doctor of your choosing as you will find that some doctors have been in their specialty for a longer period of time, some are part of an association that specializes in certain diseases, they may have even written medical research on a specific disease process. Take recommendations from friends, family or co-workers, read up on the doctors available within your insurance network, read reviews online.
Questions to Ask
- What caused my particular disease ? (As an example I was first diagnosed with Graves Disease, that disease is an autoimmune disease. So what underlying factor or disease caused it ?)
- What treatment do I need ?
- If your treatment option is medication. How will you figure out the proper dosage ?
- How often do I need to take the prescribed medication ?
- What if I miss a dose ?
- Can I switch to another medication if needed ?
- How long will I need to be on the medication ?
- What are the possible side effects of choosing to take or not take medication ?
- Which side effects are serious enough to call about ?
- Which drugs or foods can interact with the medication ?
- Do I need to make dietary changes ?
- Is it safe to exercise ?
- What if I get pregnant ?
In conclusion I think that it is super important to seek the best care for yourself. If you feel like you are getting that from your primary care doctor then wonderful. If not, don’t you think you owe it to yourself to seek a doctor that can help your individual situation ? If I knew then what I know now, I honestly believe that I would have made different choices in regard to my own health.
Please feel free to leave comments or feedback on the article or if there is anything you would like to see in future posts.