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Pediatric Endocrinology

Pediatric Endocrinology

A pediatric endocrinologist treats children with growth, puberty, diabetes or other hormone and gland disorders. The endocrine glands release hormones into your child's bloodstream that make him grow and change.

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Common Endocrine Problems in Children

Endocrine System

The most common problems pediatric endocrinologists treat are:

  • Diabetes
  • Growth problems
  • Early or delayed puberty
  • Enlarged thyroid gland
  • Issues with the pituitary or adrenal glands
  • Ovarian and testicular dysfunction
  • Low blood sugar

Childhood Diabetes

Diabetes Test on Baby

One of the hormones that require endocrinologists' attention is insulin. This hormone moves food energy from the blood into muscle, fat and liver cells. When your child does not have enough insulin or becomes resistant to it, he can develop diabetes. This disease requires lifelong management by your family, your child and your doctors. At East Tennessee Children's Hospital, we have a diabetes education team that includes dieticians, nurse educators and social workers to assist patients with their ongoing diabetes care.

The most common symptoms of diabetes are:

  • Increased thirst and frequent urination
  • Extreme hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability or unusual behavior
  • Blurred vision
  • Yeast infection

A diabetes diagnosis may seem overwhelming. Your child's endocrinologist can create a plan to manage diabetes that works best for your child's lifestyle. It may include:

  • Insulin pumps or injections
  • Continuous glucose monitors
  • Changes in diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Blood sugar monitoring

Unmonitored diabetes can be very harmful for your child. In the long-term, it can cause blindness, kidney failure, amputations and increased risk of heart attack.

Doctor checks Pediatric Thyroid

Pediatric Thyroid Problems

The thyroid gland is located in your neck. It affects your metabolism. A pediatric endocrinologist may discover that your child's thyroid is producing too little thyroid hormone. This condition is called hypothyroidism.

In newborns, hypothyroidism's symptoms are:

  • Jaundice
  • Hoarse cry
  • Poor appetite
  • Constipation
  • Slow bone growth

In children and adolescents, hypothyroidism's symptoms are:

  • Slow growth
  • Delayed puberty
  • Slow speech
  • Droopy eyelids
  • Weight gain
  • Dry skin
  • Slow pulse
Thyroid Diagram

Your doctor will complete a blood test on your child to determine if he has hypothyroidism. Without treatment, hypothyroidism can result in intellectual disability and heart failure. Treatment can include hormone treatment and medication to boost hormone levels. Your pediatric endocrinologist will continually test your child's levels and adjust medication as needed.

When your child's thyroid produces too many hormones, he may develop hyperthyroidism, or Graves' disease. His metabolism will be overactive, which may result in:

  • Small birth weight
  • Poor weight gain
  • Enlarged liver and spleen
  • High blood pressure
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Diarrhea
  • Nervousness

Your doctor will measure the amount of thyroid hormone in your child's bloodstream to determine if your child has hyperthyroidism. Treatments include medication to block the production of thyroid hormones and decrease heart rate.