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WHAT IS ENDOCRINOLOGY?

Endocrinology is the study of hormones. Hormones are essential for our every-day survival. They control our temperature, sleep, mood, stress, growth and more.
An endocrinologist is a doctor that treats diseases related to problems with hormones. A hormone is a chemical messenger that travels from one cell to another. Hormones are released in one part of the body, travel in the blood stream and have an effect on other part of the body. This helps different parts of the human body to communicate with each other. Hormones are secreted by endocrine glands, such as the pituitary, thyroid or adrenal glands. Not all glands are classified as endocrine glands; for example, sweat glands or lymph glands are not endocrine glands.
Hormones are found in all organisms with more than one cell, and so they are found in plants and animals. They influence or control a wide range of physiological activities, such as growth, development, puberty, level of alertness, sugar regulation and appetite, bone growth, etc. You also find that problems with hormones and the way they work contribute to some of the major diseases of mankind; for example, diabetes, thyroid conditions, pituitary conditions, some sexual problems, some neurological problems, appetite and obesity, bone problems, cancer, etc.
There are whole sub-specialities devoted to specific areas where hormones work. For example:
Paediatric endocrinology, looking at hormones in children
Thyroid endocrinology, looking at how the thyroid affects metabolism
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, where chemicals which mimic the effects of hormones are present in the environment
Comparative endocrinology, which looks at the way similar hormones work in different species (e.g. from insects, through to fish, birds, mammals, etc)
Sometimes there are specific societies devoted to the study of these subspecialities.
There are numerous textbooks which can give background information on endocrinology. For example, an online textbook can be found at:

What Does an Endocrinologist Do?

The glands in a person’s body release hormones. Endocrinologists treat people who suffer from hormonal imbalances, typically from glands in the endocrine system¬†or certain types of cancers. The overall goal of treatment is to restore the normal balance of hormones¬†found in a patient’s body.
Most of the work performed by an endocrinologist serves as the basis for ongoing research. Some endocrinologists work solely as research physicians. The goal of the research is to come up with new ways to better treat hormonal imbalances, including the development of new drugs.

What Does it Take to Become an Endocrinologist?

The first step to become an endocrinologist is earning a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Toward the end of the bachelor’s program, a student will then have to apply for and be accepted to medical school. Once accepted, four more years of schooling will have to be completed. Most endocrinologists will complete a residency that lasts anywhere from three to four years. After schooling has been completed, it is then mandated that a state license be obtained.
Common courses that will have to be completed to become an endocrinologist include:

  • Thyroid imaging and analysis
  • Clinical endocrinology
  • Endocrinology and genetics
  • Molecular endocrinology concepts
  • Endocrine tumors

It usually takes at least 10 years for a person to complete all of the necessary coursework, schooling and training to become an endocrinologist. From the year 2010 through 2020, there is an expected growth rate of 24 percent for this position. Before a person starts the educational path to becoming this type of physician, it is highly recommended that he or she carefully consider whether or not it is the right path.

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