Knowing that your child needs to visit a doctor for any reason other than a checkup can be daunting. When that doctor becomes a specialist, feelings of anxiety are bound to grow. However, no matter what is going on with your child’s health, taking them to a professional is the best way to ensure they get the help they need. This is especially true if you are taking your child to a pediatric endocrinologist, as a child’s healthy growth and development largely has to do with their endocrine system. But you may be wondering, “What is an endocrinologist?” Or “Why would a child need to see an endocrinologist?” These are all valid questions; keep reading to learn more about pediatric endocrinology and how it can help your child.
What is an Endocrinologist?
An endocrinologist is a doctor that focuses on the functioning and health of the endocrine system and its glands. These are glands that are consistently releasing hormones into our bloodstream so that our bodies can function normally. The various hormones produced by our bodies can influence growth, sleep, digestion, mood, reproduction and more. Issues with the pituitary gland, adrenal glands, and other glands that make up the endocrine system are known as “endocrine disorders”, and can cause hormone imbalances that lead to a wide variety of health problems. It is the endocrinologist that specializes in treating these conditions.
A pediatric endocrinologist specializes in the functioning and health of the endocrine system of children, and focuses on the issues that children can experience due to imbalanced hormone levels. Not only does a pediatric endocrinologist focus on hormone disorders specific to children, they do so with an approach that is geared towards the comfort and care of young children. This is important because some of the issues facing children in need of an endocrinologist can be sensitive and must be treated delicately.
What Conditions Does an Endocrinologist Treat?
While an endocrinologist treats a wide variety of hormone-related illnesses and disorders, a pediatric endocrinologist hones in on the conditions that most commonly affect children. These include:
A child’s growth comes in spurts, happening all of a sudden after a period of no growth at all. This is normal! However, when your child begins to grow too much too fast or instead does not grow at all for an extended period of time, it may be time to visit your pediatric endocrinologist. There could be an issue with your child’s growth hormone production that needs to be addressed.
Similarly to your child’s growth, a pediatric endocrinologist can help you address issues with your child’s weight. If your child is eating consistently but is experiencing abnormal amounts of weight loss, or if conversely, your child is experiencing weight gain while eating a calorically-appropriate diet, then there is likely an underlying issue.
Issues with your child’s thyroid early on can cause developmental issues with your child’s brain function. Caught early on with a simple blood test soon after birth, your child can avoid developmental delays and abnormalities that are sometimes associated with thyroid disease in children.
If you notice your child dealing with excessive thirst and hunger or urinating frequently, he or she may have type 1 diabetes. Your pediatric endocrinologist can help you diagnose and address the condition so that your child can live a healthy life.
Untimely or Irregular Puberty
Puberty starts around early adolescence for most children. But if your child starts puberty early, or if your teenage child has yet to start puberty, this is likely due to an issue with your child’s reproductive hormones. A pediatric endocrinologist can help you diagnose the issue and get the appropriate help.
Why Should My Child See an Endocrinologist?
If your child is experiencing any of the conditions listed above, it would be prudent to arrange for you and your child to meet with a pediatric endocrinologist who can help address your concerns. Additionally, if your family has a history of endocrine-related issues, visiting your pediatric endocrinologist can be a proactive way to address your child’s health.
What Tests Will a Pediatric Endocrinologist Do?
In order to diagnose a problem with your child’s endocrine system, your endocrinologist has a variety of tests they might use to gather information.
By drawing a few vials of blood, your endocrinologist will access valuable information about your health. Once drawn, your blood is analyzed closely, and the levels of the hormones in your blood are measured. The blood can be tested for blood sugar, cortisol, prolactin, testosterone, estrogen, and more. The results of a blood test give your endocrinologist the information they need to move forward with treatment.
Various imaging tests, like an MRI, C-Scan, Ultrasound, or X-Ray, can be used to view the glands involved with the endocrine system and can help your endocrinologist assess their overall health. Specifically, the thyroid may be examined with various imaging tests to diagnose a possible condition.
When going through the process of diagnosing your child with an endocrine disorder, your pediatric endocrinologist will perform a variety of tests. While various blood tests and imaging exams are the most common tests done in an endocrinologist’s office, your doctor may use other tests as a resource to find out the nature of your child’s endocrine disorder. They will explain the procedure and why it is necessary before proceeding with it and ensure that both you and your child are entirely comfortable throughout the process.
Endocrinology at Hillcroft
We hope this article has helped put you at ease over taking your child to see a pediatric endocrinologist. The most important part of visiting any health care professional is making sure you are consulting with a board-certified doctor that you trust and feel comfortable with. The doctors at Hillcroft Physicians are general practitioners with the knowledge and resources to help with your endocrinology-related concerns. For appointments, call 713-988-3921 to speak to a medical professional at Hillcroft Physicians.