The endocrinologists at St. Bernards specialize in diagnosing and treating endocrine system disorders—often referred to as hormone imbalance.
The endocrine system is the body’s network of glands and cells that produce and release the hormones necessary for normal function. Hormones control energy levels, regulate growth, influence the chances of having a baby and can affect metabolism, heart rate, emotions and many other aspects of your health. When this complex system isn’t properly functioning, the complications can be devastating.
Hormone imbalance occurs when the endocrine system’s glands and feedback mechanisms fail to maintain the correct balance due to the inability to produce the appropriate amounts of hormones or properly clear them out of the body. This imbalance can be caused by disease, infection, injury, tumors and nodules, genetic disorders, problems with the feedback system or failure of one gland to stimulate another’s hormone production.
The specialists at St. Bernards are experts in treating many conditions including:
- Adrenal insufficiency: This occurs when the adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys, release too little hormone cortisol or aldosterone. Symptoms include fatigue, upset stomach, dehydration and skin changes. Addison's disease is an adrenal insufficiency.
- Cushing's disease: The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain. It influences many other glands. This disease occurs when overproduction of a pituitary gland hormone leads to an overactive adrenal gland. A similar condition, known as Cushing's syndrome, can result from high doses of corticosteroid medications.
- Diabetes: This disease is when a person has too much sugar in his/her blood. It is treated with lifestyle changes and medication, including insulin injections.
- Gigantism (acromegaly) and other growth hormone problems: A child may grow abnormally fast if the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone. Contrarily, if levels are too low, a child may stop growing.
- Hypopituitarism: Several diseases may cause this condition, defined as when the pituitary gland releases little or no hormones. It can affect bone growth and menstrual cycles, along with other functions.
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is one of the most common bone disorders. It results in decreased bone strength that increases the risk of bone fracture.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The syndrome, the overproduction of androgens that interfere with the development of eggs and their release from ovaries, is the leading cause of infertility.
- Thyroid Conditions: The thyroid gland is located in the neck. It controls metabolism. Production of thyroid hormone is linked to energy levels, muscle strength, emotions, weight control, child development and tolerance for heat or cold. Overactive and underactive thyroids are treated by blocking hormones or supplementing natural production.
Testing for and Treating Endocrine Disorders
Symptoms of an endocrine disorder can have great variation and treatment requires expertise—understanding how an adjustment of one hormone level can affect another. If your primary care doctor suspects you have an endocrine disorder, he or she may refer you to an endocrinologist. The specialist will likely begin with blood and urine tests to check hormone levels to help determine a treatment plan, including further diagnostic tests, therapies or medication adjustment.