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:
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 a child's hormones back in balance.