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Endocrinology FAQs

At UPMC, our endocrinology team cares for people with endocrine and hormone health issues. We provide complete and tailored care to the people we treat.

Below are answers to common questions we get.

What Is Endocrinology?

Endocrinology is a branch of medicine that focuses on the endocrine system.

The endocrine system includes glands that make hormones, which make the body work right.

What does an endocrinologist do?

Endocrinologists study and manage a person's hormones.

They also diagnose and treat hormone-related disorders, such as:

  • Diabetes.
  • Hormone imbalances.
  • Lipid disorders.
  • Obesity.
  • Osteoporosis and calcium disorders.
  • Pituitary and adrenal gland disorders.
  • Reproductive problems.
  • Thyroid disorders.

When should I see an endocrinologist?

Common reasons to see an endocrine doctor include:

  • Gland problems.
  • High or low blood sugar.
  • Infertility.
  • Irregular menstrual cycles.
  • Unexplained weight changes.

Your PCP may refer you to an endocrinologist.

We can test for and treat any hormone-related issues you have.

What causes hormonal imbalance?

Hormone imbalances happen for many reasons.

Some common causes include:

  • Aging and menopause.
  • A gland of the endocrine system stops working right.
  • Medicines you're taking.
  • Something in the environment.
  • Your body makes too much or too little hormone.
  • Your body stops responding to hormones.

Can endocrinologists help with weight loss?

Yes, they can manage weight-related issues and provide tailored care plans to help you lose weight.

Care may include:

  • Diet advice.
  • Lifestyle changes.
  • Medicines.
  • Referrals to weight loss or other health care experts.

How do doctors treat endocrine disorders?

Treatment depends on the endocrine issue you have. The underlying causes of the health issue are also vital.

Doctors often manage endocrine and hormone disorders through a mix of:

  • Medicines.
  • Lifestyle changes.
  • Surgery.

What are the recent advances in endocrine surgery?

There have been many advances in endocrine surgery in recent years. These include less invasive surgery and improved post-op results.

Learn more about endocrine surgery research at UPMC.

What are the first signs of diabetes?

The first signs of diabetes can vary from person to person.

Common early diabetes symptoms include:

  • Blurry vision.
  • Excessive thirst.
  • Fatigue.
  • Frequent need to pee.
  • Increased hunger.
  • Infections.
  • Slow wound healing.
  • Unexplained weight loss.

What is insulin?

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. The pancreas is a gland behind the stomach.

Insulin helps control blood sugar levels.

People with diabetes have one of the following issues:

  • The pancreas doesn't make enough insulin (type 1 diabetes).
  • The body's cells resist insulin's effects (type 2 diabetes).
  • Diabetes due to cystic fibrosis, genetic disorder (MODY), or pancreas insufficiency due to pancreatitis or pancreas surgery.
  • High blood sugar due to steroids or other drugs.

What is insulin resistance?

Insulin resistance occurs when the body's cells don't react strongly to insulin and can't use blood sugar for energy.

This causes the pancreas to make more and more insulin to help keep blood sugar levels normal.

Over time, the pancreas can't keep up, and your blood sugar levels go up.

Is there a cure for thyroid disease?

The outcome of thyroid disease varies.

While some thyroid disorders can be well managed, a total cure may not be possible in all cases.

What triggers thyroid eye disease (TED)?

Factors that can trigger TED include:

  • Gene changes.
  • Immune system changes.
  • Overactive thyroid gland.
  • Radiation.
  • Smoking.
  • Stress.

What are the signs and symptoms of neuroendocrine cancers?

Neuroendocrine cancers have many signs and symptoms. In some cases, these tumors make the body secrete too many hormones.

This can cause symptoms such as:

  • Flushing of the face.
  • Sweating.
  • Diarrhea.

What lifestyle changes and medications can help improve bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis?

Lifestyle changes that can improve bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis include:

  • Getting enough calcium and vitamin D.
  • Adding weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises to your routine.
  • Avoiding tobacco and too much alcohol.
  • Taking measures to prevent falls.

Medicines for bone loss include:

  • Bisphosphonates.
  • Denosumab.
  • Hormone replacement therapy.
  • SERMs.
  • Teriparatide.