What is the endocrine system?

The endocrine system is a complex group of glands and organs that produce and regulate hormones in the bloodstream to control many functions of the body—such as reproduction, metabolism and growth and development. Hormones also control the way you respond to your surroundings, and they help provide the proper amount of energy and nutrition your body needs to function. The major glands that makeup the endocrine system include the thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas, ovaries, testes, adrenal, pituitary and hypothalamus.

What is an endocrinologist?

An endocrinologist is a specialty-trained physician who diagnoses and treats disorders of the endocrine (hormonal) system and certain other metabolic conditions. Diabetes is the most common type of endocrine disorder, but endocrinologists provide care for patients with many other conditions including:

  • pituitary, adrenal and thyroid disorders

  •  calcium disorders – including osteoporosis and osteopenia

  • cancers of the endocrine glands

  • hypertension

  • cholesterol (lipid) disorders

  •  male and female hormonal disorders – including hypogonadism and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Endocrinologists also conduct research to better understand how glands function, as well as clinical research to learn the best treatment methods. Primary care physicians refer patients to an endocrinologist when they have a problem with their endocrine system.