Medical Family Therapy in Endocrinology

  • Max Zubatsky
  • Tai Mendenhall
Part of the Focused Issues in Family Therapy book series (FIFT)


Endocrinology is the study the body’s endocrine system, which is responsible for the production of hormones that serve a variety of functions. The endocrine system normally controls the homeostasis of bodily systems and is responsible for growth, development, reproduction, and responses to various internal and external stimuli. Common types of disorders as a result of endocrine complications (e.g., diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, Addison’s disease, Cushing’s disease, Grave’s disease) are often related to improper functioning of the pancreas and/or pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands. These disorders can affect widespread complications such as increased heart rate, abnormal bone growth, skin changes, elevated blood glucose levels, and severe fatigue and weakness (Melmed, Polonsky, Larsen, & Kronenberg, 2015; Nelson, 2005). Life-threatening effects may include diabetic ketoacidosis, hypoglycemic coma, thyroid storm, acute pancreatitis, and pituitary apoplexy (National Adrenal Diseases Foundation, 2016; Savage, Mah, Weetman, & Newell-Price, 2004).


Glossary of Important Terms in Endocrinology and Diabetes Care


A laboratory test that shows the average amount of glucose in a patient’s blood. This is usually measured every 3–6 months.

Blood glucose

The principal sugar found in the blood; it serves as a key source of energy.

Diabetic ketoacidosis

A serious condition in which very high blood glucose levels are detected, along with a severe deficiency of insulin in the body. This results in a breakdown of body fat for energy and accumulation of ketones in the blood (making it acidic). This condition can lead to diabetic coma or even death.

Glycemic index

A rank order of foods based on the food’s effect on one’s blood glucose levels.

Impaired fasting glucose (IFG)

A condition in which a patient’s fasting blood glucose level is consistently elevated above what is considered normal. This is often called “prediabetes,” insofar as blood sugar levels are high (100–125 mg/dL) but not yet high enough to indicate a diabetes diagnosis.


A peptide hormone produced in the pancreas; it regulates the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats by promoting glucose absorption from the blood to skeletal muscles and fat tissue and/or by enabling fat to be stored (rather than used for energy).


A common prescription medication approved to treat Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes; it acts as a long-acting form of insulin that is not human-made.

Metabolic syndrome

Refers to several conditions that raise a patient’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, and/or stroke. Said conditions include obesity, diabetes, prediabetes, hypertension, and/or high lipid levels.


An oral medicine that is used for Type 2 diabetes; it reduces the amount of glucose produced by the liver and helps the body respond better to insulin.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Family and Community MedicineSaint Louis UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Family Social ScienceUniversity of MinnesotaSaint PaulUSA

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