Hormones are chemicals that are produced by the body and flow through the bloodstream. They control a number of important functions, including growth, metabolism, and sexual development. Doctors that treat hormonal problems are called endocrinologists, and endocrinologists that work with children are pediatric endocrinologists.
Pediatric endocrinologists treat children of all ages, from newborn babies to young adults. Because hormones affect growth and sexual development, endocrine disorders affect children and teens very differently than they do adults. Some disorders, such as precocious (early) puberty, only affect children. Some endocrine disorders have different symptoms in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. A pediatric endocrinologist must be aware of how hormonal problems specifically affect children's health and development.
Diabetes, a disease caused by problems with the hormone insulin, is the most common disorder treated by pediatric endocrinologists. Other issues include:
Growth disorders, which prevent children from growing or maturing as expected
Pituitary or adrenal disorders
Sex hormone disorders, where the body produces either too little or too much of the hormones that affect puberty and sexual development
Intersex, a group of conditions that make a person's sex unclear
Vitamin D deficiency
Problems with calcium metabolism
Treatment for transgender children, who feel they do not match the gender associated with their external genitalia (many, but not all, pediatric endocrinology offices provide this service)
For most endocrine disorders, treatment involves medication taken to either supplement or suppress certain hormone levels.
Since hormones control so many functions within the body and are so crucial during the early stages of life, an endocrine disorder can be devastating for a child. Pediatric endocrinologists help get your child's hormones back in balance.