Endocrinologists care for patients with complex hormonal disorders and metabolic conditions. Other common endocrine problems include metabolic bone disease, pituitary and adrenal conditions, osteoporosis, growth disorders, and lipid and nutritional disorders.

Simply put, endocrinology is the study of the endocrine glands - a group of glands in the body, which secrete hormones, evoking specific responses in other cells of the body, and control basic bodily functions such as metabolism, growth and sexual development. These hormones travel to their target organs and cells and then bind to receptors either on cell surfaces or inside the cell. This results in a change in the activity of those cells. Endocrine responses are relatively slow, taking from seconds to days to occur.

The amount of hormone produced by each gland is carefully balanced. Too much or too little of a specific hormone can have consequences throughout the body and cause various endocrine disorders. For example, in Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce any insulin, so the diabetic needs to inject the insulin hormone into their body in order to regulate and maintain balance in the endocrine system.

Endocrinologists are trained to recognise problems with hormones and restore the natural balance of hormones in a patient’s system. In addition, endocrinologists conduct research on the basic and clinical aspects of endocrine glands and disorders. They also treat a wide range of functions and disorders of the endocrine system, including metabolism, hormonal imbalances, menopause, osteoporosis and cholesterol disorders. Endocrinologists also develop new drugs and treatments for hormonal disorders.

Amongst the most common illnesses associated with endocrine disorders are diabetes and hypothyroidism, which can cause hormonal imbalances such as obesity, immune problems, kidney failure, fertility problems and even heart disease and cancer. Endocrinologists help many of their patients to treat their disorders and diseases with medication and proper diet. They also educate people and recommend exercise and other lifestyle health choices.


  • universities and colleges

  • research organisations

  • hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities

  • private practice or in a group practice

Getting Started

  • speak to an endocrinologist about this career

  • read up on endocrine diseases such as diabetes, thyroid and adrenal disorders etc

  • try and do voluntary work for organisations providing support to people with endocrine diseases


Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, University of Cape Town, University of Pretoria, University of Stellenbosch, University of the Free State

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