Dr Andrew van der Walt
Specialist Physician and Endocrinologist.
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What is Endocrinology?
Endocrinology is a discipline focusing on hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers. Hormones are produced in specialized endocrine cells which are often (but not always) located in endocrine glands. Hormones are most often (but not always) secreted into the bloodstream and act on target organs to produce effects. For example: Adrenaline is a hormone produced by the cells located in the adrenal medulla, part of the adrenal gland. When we are threatened or experience fear (fight or flight) adrenaline is released in large amounts and causes our hearts to beat harder and faster, our blood pressure to rise, our palms to become sweaty etc.
Traditional endocrine conditions include (but are not limited to) all forms of diabetes mellitus (type 1, type 2 and other forms e.g. pregnancy-related diabetes mellitus), disorders of the thyroid, pituitary, adrenal and parathyroid glands, electrolyte disorders (i.e. abnormalities of sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium etc), disorders of bone metabolism (e.g. osteoporosis), disorders of growth and development, several important causes of hypertension, cholesterol disorders, hirsutism, ovarian conditions (e.g. polycystic ovarian syndrome and menopause), certain testicular disorders (e.g. the aging male) and endocrine-related causes of infertility. Importantly the field of endocrinology continues to expand and avenues are opening in various directions e.g. fatty liver, the bowel microbiome, etc. It is worth mentioning that a good endocrinologist needs to be a good specialist physician and a good specialist physician needs to have a good grasp of endocrinology.