Last updated on September 9th, 2022
A diabetic person’s common problem is that they get to hear numerous pieces of advice and suggestions from friends. These bits of advice may be in the form of a diabetic diet, medicines, natural remedies, and consulting specialists. When it comes to consulting a specialist some may recommend you to go to a diabetologist while some may suggest seeing an endocrinologist. So, what is the difference between these two? Whom to consult? Read the article below to know the key difference between diabetologists and endocrinologists.
Diabetes, Endocrine System & Pancreas
Before understanding the difference between a diabetologist and an endocrinologist, it is essential to understand two key points:
Our body has numerous glands. These glands are special organs that make various hormones and secrete them into the bloodstream. Hormones regulate body functions like hunger, sleep, sexual desire, emotions, mood, growth and development, coordination among body organs, etc.
The numerous glands present in our body work together and form an endocrine system . The glands of our endocrine system are as follows:
- We have the hypothalamus, pituitary, and pineal gland in our brain.
- Thyroid and Parathyroid glands in our neck
- Thymus gland between our lungs
- Adrenal glands are on the kidney’s top
- The pancreas is behind the stomach .
- Females have ovaries while males have testes in the pelvic region.
These glands make hormones, release them into the bloodstream and control their production. For example, the Adrenal glands release the hormone adrenaline that regulates the body’s immune system, blood pressure, stress response, etc.
Similarly, Pancreas makes and controls the hormone insulin. Insulin’s main function is to regulate blood sugar levels in the body .
Glands form the endocrine system that produces hormones. Hormones regulate our body cells, organs, and their functioning.
Pancreas and Diabetes
The organ in concern of blood sugar levels is Pancreas. The pancreas is a part of the endocrine system. It is present behind the stomach of our body. Apart from helping in digestion, Pancreas is the source of the important hormone insulin.
Insulin is made in the beta cells of the pancreas. It enters the bloodstream when the Pancreas is triggered with a signal of high blood sugar levels. This generally happens after the digestion of your food. So as soon as you eat food, Pancreas releases insulin.
Insulin, the main purpose is to regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin helps the body cells to absorb blood glucose. The blood glucose now enters the body cells. In these cells, it is used in the process of cellular respiration to release energy. Insulin also helps the body’s muscles, liver, and fat cells store glucose for further use.
Thus, it is Insulin that ensures the blood sugar levels are normal.
But due to the infection or damage to pancreas beta cells, insulin production reduces. Moreover, sometimes the body becomes resistant to insulin. In both cases, the blood sugar absorption by cells decreases. This causes the blood sugar levels to go abnormally high. Such a condition is Diabetes. Thus, to control diabetes, Pancreas and insulin should function properly.
The pancreas releases insulin that regulates blood sugar levels. Any damage to the pancreas decreases insulin production leading to diabetes.
Key Difference Between Diabetologists and Endocrinologists
We often get confused with endocrinologists and diabetologists. But in actuality, the basic difference is that endocrinologists are trained physicians who can treat any problem related to the endocrine gland while on the other hand diabetologists are trained physician who only treats people who are suffering from early or higher stages of diabetes.
Endocrinologists are specialists who specialize in the body’s endocrine system, glands, and hormones. Thus, they are the ones who understand the functioning of each gland, the way they make hormones, the metabolism of the body, and the changes in the body due to the changes in the levels of the hormones.
What does Endocrinologist do?
Any endocrine system disorder or infection shall result in changes in our body metabolism. The specialists who help in diagnosing and treating such endocrine function disorders or infections are the endocrinologists.
Endocrinologist covers the diagnosis and treatment of the entire endocrine system from growth hormones, thyroid, adrenals, reproductive hormones, body metabolism, and hypothalamus glands, including the Pancreas and Insulin. An Endocrinologist thus is not limited to diabetes treatment or Pancreas or Insulin treatment alone.
Also Read: Fruits for diabetic patients
When Should You See an Endocrinologist
One should visit an Endocrinologist if one is facing the following problems:
- Any hormonal disorder
- Any damage to the endocrine gland due to an endocrine disorder
- Changes in body and metabolic diseases
- Thyroid issues
- Polycystic ovary syndrome. Generally, it is due to hormonal disorders.
- Cancers of the endocrine glands
- Issues with cholesterol, body temperature, thirst, and stress
- Reproductive organ and hormonal issues
- Menopause due to hormonal unbalances
- Due to hormonal disorders, growth issues, rickets, and body weight issues.
Also Read: Can Quitting Smoking Reverses Diabetes?
When should a Diabetes patient visit an Endocrinologist?
For a diabetic patient, your doctor may ask you to visit an Endocrinologist
- If you are newly diagnosed with diabetes. In such a case the doctor may require an endocrinologist’s opinion on Pancreas and Insulin functioning to manage diabetes efficiently .
- When your Diabetes management has worsened. In such a situation, the endocrinologist shall help in giving insights on insulin therapy or Pancreas removal surgery.
- If you are using more insulin therapy.
- When the diabetes treatment is not effective enough.
Thus, when you are diabetic, your doctor may ask you to visit an Endocrinologist to gain proper information on the Insulin role in your body. With this understanding Insulin therapy and medicines can be properly planned for effective diabetes management.
An endocrinologist’s opinion is necessary for effective insulin therapy or in the case of newly diagnosed diabetes.
The endocrinology branch of medicine covers all the endocrine glands. But with more prominent cases of diabetes and its associated disease, a special branch of medicine namely Diabetology came into existence. The main aim was to specifically diagnose, and treat diabetes.
Thus, it can be said that diabetologists are endocrinologists especially interested in diabetes management and its treatment.
Also Read: Best Diabetic Diet Chart
What Does Diabetologist do?
A diabetologist helps in diagnosing and treating the following:
- Type -1 diabetes
- Type- 2 diabetes
- Diabetes caused during pregnancy- Gestational diabetes
- Diabetes Ketoacidosis during diabetes management,
- Diabetic neuropathy– nerve disorders
- Diabetic Nephropathy- kidney disorders
- Foot pain caused due to diabetes
- Hypoglycemia and Hyperglycaemia
- Other complications caused by diabetes
Diabetes can cause further issues of nerves, heart, liver disorders, eye problems, kidney issues, growth, and metabolic issues. In such a case, the Diabetologist may require an expert opinion from other medical disciplines. These include an opinion from a kidney specialist (Nephrologist), Nerve specialist (Neurologist), etc.
Moreover, the cause of diabetes may vary from person to person. In some, it can be a genetic cause, while in some it can be due to lifestyle and poor weight management. Thus, diabetologist works with a dietician, diabetic educators, nurses, Podiatrists, lifestyle experts, physician, etc. In this way, it helps in gaining proper information about the cause essential for better diagnosis and treatment.
Diabetologists may consult an Endocrinologist in the following cases:
- When the cause of diabetes may be Pancreas and insulin disorders.
- In any case, insulin therapy is not working efficiently.
- When there is a need for insulin dose adjustments.
- To find the cause of diabetes in newly diabetic patients
- To manage diabetes treatment after gaining insights into Insulin and pancreas action.
Thus, the treatment and proper management of diabetes require multidisciplinary team coordination.
Diabetologist helps in diagnosing and treating diabetes. Diabetologists can seek Endocrinologist opinions related to Insulin and Pancreas action for diabetes management.
When Should You See a Diabetologist?
You should visit a diabetologist if you come across any of the signs and symptoms of diabetes. Some of the key symptoms are as follows:
- Experiencing frequent unusual thirst
- Having a desire for frequent urination
- Having blurry vision and confusion
- Weight loss
- Fatigue and feeling tiredness
- Mood swings and irritation
- Low glucose levels signs like irregular heartbeat, anxiety, confusion, and hand tremor.
- High glucose levels
- Slow-healing sores or wounds
- Painful Urination and Irregular Periods in women
- Frequent skin Infection
- Rise in sugar levels during Pregnancy
While treating and diagnosing diabetes Diabetologists can ask for blood tests and other laboratory tests. Some of the common tests are
- Fasting blood glucose tests
- Random blood glucose level tests ( you can test it yourself at your home using a glucometer)
- Glycated hemoglobin test [HbA1C] for blood sugar levels
- Oral glucose tolerance test for blood sugar levels
- Urine protein test
- Urine Ketones test
Diabetologists should have an MD degree in general Medicine. On the other hand, Endocrinologists should have DM specialization in Endocrinology. Both are a physician practicing internal medicine, but their ways of treatment differ.
Diabetologists are more specific to diabetes and its management, while Endocrinologists are more towards the entire endocrine system including Pancreas and Insulin. Thus, for further guidance on effective insulin management, Diabetologists may seek endocrinologists’ advice. But if you are diabetic, Diabetologists are the first to contact you.
If my diabetologist refers me to an endocrinologist does this means my diabetes has worsened?
Referring to an endocrinologist does not mean your diabetes has worsened. It may be to get further opinions on the best ways of management or to rule out other endocrine and metabolic disorders. Thus, such opinion shall give more information on Insulin and Pancreatic action along with other metabolic actions of the body. In this way, efficient treatment of diabetes can be planned.
How frequently should I visit my diabetologist?
Visit depends on the symptoms of the patient. It is generally good to visit a diabetologist once every three months.
If I have some visible symptoms of diabetes can I go to an Endocrinologist?
Yes you can. An endocrinologist shall help you to diagnose the cause. However, for further management and a specific line of treatment consultation of a Diabetologist may be necessary.
- Machida, M., Fujimaki, S., Hidaka, R., Asashima, M., & Kuwabara, T. (2012). The insulin regulatory network in the adult hippocampus and pancreatic endocrine system. Stem cells international, 2012.
- Grant, P., Cheer, K., Herring, R., Chakera, A. J., Brooks, A., Little, S., & Wilmot, E. (2013). CSII experience among higher specialist trainees: a Young Diabetologists and Endocrinologists Forum survey. Practical Diabetes, 30(8), 332-335.
Last Updated on by Dr. Damanjit Duggal
The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.