What is Endocrinology?
Endocrinology is a medical specialty that deals with glands and hormones. Hormones are substances that act like chemical messengers between parts of the body. They are produced by glands, and travel in the bloodstream throughout the body where they act on different organs and cells to affect many different functions of life. Hormones control our appetite, growth, reproduction, and energy. When there is too little or too much of a hormone, an endocrinologist can help restore the balance.
Endocrinology problems are sometimes difficult and complex because hormones travel throughout the body and can affect more than one system. A single, simple imbalance can produce multiple, very different symptoms. Just a few of the diverse diseases treated by an endocrinologist include:
Diabetes (where insulin is not produced in the body or is not working well, and blood sugar levels rise, which damages tissues)
Hypothyroidism (where thyroid hormones are not produced well, reducing cell metabolism and energy)
Precocious Puberty (where reproductive hormones are produced too early in a child’s life)
Gigantism (where growth hormones are overproduced, leading to unusual size)
Endocrinology can contain subspecialties where physicians focus their care on specific groups of patients. For example, some endocrinologists are diabetic endocrinologists who know specifically how to care for diabetics’ particular needs in eye care, circulation, and foot care. Pediatric endocrinologists treat children. Whatever their subspecialty, all endocrinologists have the same goal: restoring balance when the body’s messaging system is not working correctly.
What is Rheumatology?
Rheumatology is the medical specialty that is concerned with arthritis and other diseases of inflammation. Inflammation can occur anywhere in the body, but it is most common in the joints and connective tissues. Arthritis, which occurs in the joints, is also a very common condition, so rheumatology is strongly associated with joint care. But rheumatology is about more that just arthritis. Other conditions that a rheumatologist might treat include:
Lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease
Ankylosing spondylitis, inflammation at the base of the spine
Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that stops production of tears and saliva
Fibromyalgia, a disorder causing widespread, chronic pain and fatigue
Pediatric rheumatologists are doctors that specialize in treating inflammatory diseases in children. Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other inflammatory diseases can begin even in childhood, and can cause a unique set of problems for active and growing children.
Rheumatologists use patient symptoms as well as lab tests and imaging tests such as MRIs to diagnose disease. Treatment varies widely depending on the diagnosis, but it may include physiotherapy (to improve motion, ability, and function) or medications. Commonly prescribed medications include anti-inflammatories such as NSAIDS (e.g. Tylenol, Ibuprofen) and steroids, or immune system suppressants such as methotrexate and TNF inhibitor medications (e.g. Enbrel, Humira). The goal is always to increase the patient’s ability to move without pain and to reduce the need for future treatment.
Geriatrics is the subspecialty of internal medicine that provides primary care to older adults. Physical health tends to decline with age, and geriatricians work to manage such age-related concerns as chronic illness, frailty, multiple medications, and declining mental health to keep seniors as active and independent as possible.
Some of the most common concerns seen by a geriatrician include:
Mobility issues, including the need for canes and walkers, as well as preventing falls
Osteoporosis, a weakening of the bones, which affects as many as a quarter of all men and half of all women over fifty
Loss of hearing or vision
Incontinence, or the inability to control one’s bladder
Memory loss, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
A geriatrician may also provide their patients with comprehensive care that includes checking on their social health. Seniors are at increased risk for poverty, loneliness, abuse, and injuries in the home. As part of their health care, a geriatrician may inquire about family support, living conditions, or the ability of a patient to perform daily self-care tasks.
In some cases, a geriatrician may serve as an advisor to other physicians on a specific case or condition. However, most of the time geriatrics is a primary care specialty, and geriatricians provide routine health care to the older patients they work with.