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What is an endocrinologist?

Diabetes is a complex disease, and there is a lot more to treating it than just keeping your blood sugar at a healthy level. Thankfully, today many individuals with diabetes have a whole team of skilled professionals to help them manage their illness, including a primary care physician, dietitian, eye doctor, podiatrist, dentist and even a fitness trainer all dedicated to keeping you healthy.

According to information from the American Diabetes Association (ADA), it is also important to have an endocrinologist, a doctor who has special training in treating people with diabetes and hormonal disorders, on your care team as well.

What is an endocrinologist?

An endocrinologist is a specially trained doctor who can diagnose and treat diseases that affect your glands, hormones and your endocrine system. The pancreas is part of the endocrine system, and insulin is one of the central hormones the body needs to function properly. Endocrinologists often treat people with diabetes, thyroid disease, metabolic disorders and more.

Like other physicians and medical doctors, an endocrinologist is required to finish four years in medical school and complete a three or four year residency. Then, endocrinologists are required to spend two or three more years learning how to diagnose and treat hormone conditions. Overall, an endocrinologist's training typically takes more than 10 years, according to data from The Hormone Foundation. In most cases, your primary care doctor refers you to an endocrinologist if he or she believes you need to see a specialist to help you manage your diabetes.

Why see an endocrinologist?

Though many people can successfully control their diabetes with their general practitioner's help, there are several cases in which it might be best to see an endocrinologist. The ADA asserts that most people with type 1 diabetes should see an endocrinologist, especially when their diagnosis is new and they are still learning about their condition. Additionally, many people with type 2 diabetes are referred to endocrinologists if they are having trouble managing their condition or are experiencing complications.

The ADA also notes that some doctors who specialize in diabetes call themselves "diabetologists." Though they might provide you with adequate care, it's important to know diabetology isn't a board-certified area of practice like endocrinology. Adding an endocrinologist to your diabetes care team can be one way to ensure you're managing your disease in the best way possible.

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About Laura L Isaacs

Laura L. Isaacs studied at Indiana University and has worked in print and online media for almost 10 years. Laura has provided health-related content for media outlets including Fox Interactive (via Canvas News and EndPlay). Additionally, she has a family history of diabetes and is passionate about sharing information to help readers cope with this disease.

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