What is an Endocrinologist?
Endocrinology is the field of hormone-related diseases. An endocrinologist is a medical doctor that can diagnose and treat hormone problems and their complications.
Diabetes is considered an “endocrine” issue due to abnormalities with the hormone insulin. Diabetes is typically diagnosed because of abnormal insulin secretion and/or insulin function.
Aside from the Endocrinologist MD themselves, there are often other practitioners within the department that can be helpful. A Nurse Practitioner (NP), Physician Assistant (PA), or Pharmacist (PharmD) that specializes in diabetes can often be just as good of an option and have shorter wait times to see them. It doesn’t hurt to ask the scheduler about these alternatives!
Another team member that is likely available within an Endocrinology Department is the Diabetes Educator (CDE), who can help you with better understanding diabetes as a disease and developing a specific food plan that can help with blood sugar regulation and weight loss.
Why should I see an Endocrinology Specialist?
Humans are complex! This is why there are over 24 different specialty fields a doctor can go into – how could anyone of them know everything? It isn’t the job of your primary care provider to be the expert on diabetes, but rather to understand the basics, give you pointers on a healthy lifestyle and know when to refer you to a specialist.
Furthermore, type 2 diabetes as a disease has so many different variables that affect patient outcomes and treatment options. There are over 25 types 2 diabetes medication options alone. It is nearly impossible to be the expert on these therapies PLUS know hundreds of other medication details for all of the other acute and chronic conditions that a primary care provider treats.
This requires a lot of education for a healthcare provider to be “talented” and focused at helping their patients with diabetes therapies. Of course, there are exceptions and you should consider yourself lucky if you found a primary care provider that is passionate and knowledgeable about diabetes!
When should I see an Endocrinology specialist for Diabetes?
To clarify, you can always go to the endocrinologist- even if your doctor doesn’t suggest it or give you a referral. This is your choice! However, your regular doctor might refer you to an endocrinologist when:
- You are new to diabetes and have high numbers at diagnosis
- Your healthcare provider doesn’t have sufficient experience in treating diabetes
- You’re a good candidate for a continuous glucose monitor (sensor) or other technology systems
- You require insulin injections or use an insulin pump
- Your diabetes has gotten tough to manage, or your treatment isn't working
- You have complications from diabetes
Remember, if you do decide to see an endocrinologist – you should still visit your primary care provider for regular check-ups and medical concerns NOT related to your diabetes.