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Why choose UCLA Health for pediatric endocrinology?
Our team leads the nation in diagnosis and treatment for all types of endocrine disorders. We offer specialized endocrine care from birth to age 21, working with your entire family to ensure your child receives the excellent care they deserve. When you come to us, you’ll find:
World-class diabetes care: Internationally recognized doctors, diabetes educators and registered dietitians come together to focus on your child’s unique needs. We specialize in type 1 diabetes and work with your family to create a personalized diabetes care plan that fits your child’s life. Our comprehensive approach emphasizes nutrition, exercise, effective medication management, emotional well-being and more.
Research and innovation: We’re committed to studying the causes of diabetes so we can offer better preventive care and make treatments more precise. For example, UCLA Health scientists developed a type of “smart” insulin that can prevent blood sugar levels from dropping too low. We’re always looking to the latest technologies in diabetes care as we focus on improving children’s lives.
Expertise in treating hyperinsulinism: UCLA Health is one of the few centers in the U.S. with a dedicated hyperinsulinism team. We're also the only center in Southern California, and one of only four in the nation, to use sophisticated technology to diagnose the condition. Hyperinsulinism is a rare, life-threatening disorder that causes the pancreas to produce too much insulin (a hormone that controls blood sugar).
Successful thyroid program: As leaders in thyroid care, we specialize in diagnosing and treating thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer in children. We combine extensive experience with highly specialized expertise to deliver successful treatments to children with these conditions. If your child needs surgery, our surgical team performs procedures exclusively on endocrine organs. You and your loved ones access a wealth of knowledge that only UCLA Health can offer.
Comprehensive gender health care: Our compassionate team delivers the full spectrum of medical options, counseling and support to help gender-diverse children and their families. Pediatric endocrinologists offer gender-affirming hormone management tailored to each individual. We strongly believe in working closely with children and families to help them navigate their journey in a caring, inclusive and supportive environment. Learn more about UCLA Health Gender Health Care.
Our areas of care
UCLA Health offers a range of specialized programs, with experts who are uniquely skilled at delivering tailored care to meet your child’s individual needs. Our dedicated areas of focus include:
Pediatric Diabetes Program
Our program is renowned for thorough care, innovative treatments and family-centered support. Using an individualized approach, we focus on educating patients as well as family members and caregivers. We know that children with diabetes stay healthier when everyone is aligned with the care plan.
Our endocrinology team includes certified diabetes educators, registered dietitians, social workers and child psychologists. Bringing multiple experts together allows us to provide the most comprehensive services and support. We offer:
- Assistance with 504 plans at school and advice to help children advocate for themselves and ask for the accommodations they need in a variety of settings
- Customized nutrition and exercise plans that emphasize age-appropriate physical activity
- Education and resources so your child can manage diabetes and gain more control over their health
- Effective treatments, care and guidance that focus on your child as a whole person
- One-on-one sessions to help parents and caregivers master the latest technologies involved in treatment
- Support, counseling and therapy to address your child’s emotional well-being and guide family members through caring for a child with complex medical needs
- Tips for establishing routines, living a healthy lifestyle and reducing the risk of diabetes complications
Thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer in children
As one of the top thyroid programs in the nation, UCLA Health evaluates, diagnoses and treats thyroid disease in children of all ages. Our board-certified endocrinologists, experienced endocrine surgeons and experts from nuclear medicine, radiology and pathology come together to deliver outstanding care for children starting at birth. We’re at the forefront of the latest technologies that help us diagnose and treat thyroid problems more effectively.
Through years of experience, UCLA Health specialists fine-tuned the technique for ultrasound-guided fine-needle biopsies of thyroid nodules in children. These procedures allow us to remove a tiny sample of nodule tissue and evaluate it in a lab, which helps us deliver a precise diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. We are one of the few medical centers in the United States to offer this level of expertise for children with thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer.
Gender-affirming hormone therapy
UCLA Health is dedicated to delivering compassionate care to children and adolescents who are transgender or gender-diverse. We offer customized hormone therapy to help young people who have a body that doesn’t match their gender identity. Through the UCLA Health Gender Health Program, our team of endocrinologists works with other specialists to offer family-centered care that focuses on your child’s physical and mental health.
UCLA Health leads the way in hyperinsulinism diagnosis and treatment as one of the only medical centers in the U.S. with advanced expertise in this condition. A rare, congenital (present at birth) disorder, hyperinsulinism causes low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in infants and children. Hypoglycemia occurs when the beta cells in the pancreas produce too much insulin (a hormone that controls blood sugar). Untreated, hypoglycemia can lead to seizures, brain damage and coma. It can be fatal.
A precise diagnosis is essential to determining the right treatment for this complex condition. UCLA Health is one of a handful of medical centers with specialized positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography (CT) scans. We're skilled at using this sophisticated technology to diagnose hyperinsulinism and determine the type.
Our dedicated team also works with specialists in pediatric genetics to evaluate a child’s DNA. Together, we determine if hyperinsulinism resulted from a genetic disorder, and if so, we identify the exact gene change (mutation) that caused it.
Hyperinsulinism can occur by itself or along with other disorders. We use our expertise and experience to tell if the condition occurs due to other genetic disorders, such as Beckwith-Weidemann syndrome or Kabuki syndrome. This helps us target our treatment plan to your child's specific needs.
Endocrine conditions we treat
The endocrine system is a complex collection of glands that produce hormones, or chemical “messengers.” Hormones control basic body functions such as growth and sexual development. They also control your metabolism, which regulates your breathing, digestion, blood circulation and body temperature.
Too much or too little of a certain hormone can affect all areas of the body, causing various endocrine disorders and metabolic disorders. Although many of these conditions affect adults, too, they may produce different symptoms in children. Our team specializes in treating:
Adrenal disorders: These diseases affect the hormone-producing adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys. One of the most common adrenal disorders in children is Addison’s disease, which develops when the body doesn’t produce enough cortisol, also called the “stress hormone.”
Childhood obesity and metabolic syndrome: Carrying too much extra weight can lead to metabolic syndrome, a group of health problems that puts children at risk of serious medical issues.
Gender dysphoria and disorders of sex development (DSD): Gender dysphoria occurs when a person’s physical body doesn’t match their gender identity. DSD happens when a baby’s genitals do not clearly appear as either male or female at birth.
Growth disorders: Hormone problems can cause a range of abnormal growth patterns in kids, including delayed physical growth and early or delayed puberty.
Hyperinsulinism: This rare, life-threatening disorder causes low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) in infants and children.
Metabolic bone disease: Abnormal hormone levels can lead to bone problems such as osteoporosis (weakened, brittle bones).
Thyroid nodules and thyroid cancer: Firm lumps or bumps can grow on the thyroid, which is a butterfly-shaped gland on the front of the neck. Most thyroid nodules are benign (noncancerous), but they may also be cancerous.
Type 1 diabetes (T1D): An autoimmune disease, type 1 diabetes happens when the immune system attacks healthy insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. As a result, the pancreas produces too little insulin or no insulin at all. Type 1 diabetes usually appears in childhood or adolescence but can begin in adulthood.
Type 2 diabetes: This type of diabetes typically appears later in life, but it can develop in children and young adults. Type 2 diabetes happens when the body doesn’t make enough insulin to meet its needs, or it doesn’t use insulin properly.
Treatments we offer
At UCLA Health, our expert team delivers effective treatments that prioritize your child’s well-being. We partner with other specialists to offer coordinated, customized care, including:
Your child’s doctor may recommend several strategies to manage diabetes, including insulin injections or insulin pump, continuous glucose monitor (CGM), dietary changes and exercise. Our diabetes educators help you and your family create a plan to keep your child healthy. We work closely with you to create realistic strategies that fit your life, and we help you adjust the plan as your child grows and their needs change.
We offer the latest technologies and equipment, including automated insulin delivery systems. An insulin pump and CGM work together to measure blood sugar regularly and determine how much insulin your child needs. The devices communicate with each other through Bluetooth technology, using a sophisticated algorithm to deliver the right insulin dose. You can monitor the device’s activity and your child’s blood sugar using an app on your phone.
Thyroid nodule and thyroid cancer treatments
If your child needs surgery to remove thyroid nodules or part of the thyroid gland, you can trust UCLA Health. Our pediatric surgeons have specialized experience performing these procedures to treat children. We have some of the best surgical outcomes in the country.
Our specially trained endocrinologists work closely with patients and families to help children and adolescents with gender dysphoria. We take the time to review your child’s options, goals and concerns. Our team provides the support you need to make decisions that best address your child’s needs and overall health.
One of the options we offer is hormone therapy. This individualized treatment can reduce the distress that some people experience when their gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. Treatment options may include:
Puberty suppression therapy: Medications can pause puberty in some children and adolescents. This reversible therapy can give young people more time to explore their gender-related goals while preventing further physical changes. They may then choose whether to stop the puberty suppression (and allow the body’s own puberty to proceed) or start hormone therapy.
Hormone replacement therapy: This treatment uses medications that reduce the body’s own hormone production. It replaces those hormones with ones that are consistent with the child’s gender identity.
Other medications: Depending on their situation, your child may benefit from medications that can stop monthly periods, reduce hair growth or prevent other changes from happening in the body. These physical changes can be distressing for people who question their gender identity.
Following a hyperinsulinism diagnosis, the main goal of treatment is to prevent hypoglycemia. We do this by giving a baby IV fluids (through a vein) that contain dextrose (a type of sugar). We also deliver medications that can stabilize blood sugar levels.
Your child’s doctor may recommend a special type of imaging scan that helps us determine the best treatment plan for your child. Some children benefit from surgery to remove all or part of the pancreas. This surgery can improve or even cure hyperinsulinism.
Our board-certified endocrinologists specialize in treating children with a range of endocrine and metabolic disorders. We coordinate your child’s care with experts in nutrition, child psychology and other specialties to deliver the highest level of care.
Pediatric Endocrinology Faculty
UCLA Pediatric Endocrinology Nurses
Other Pediatric Diabetes Team Members
Sabah Akmal, LCSW
MSW from University of California, Los Angeles.
Sylvia Villaseñor, LCSW
MSW in Social Welfare
Jennifer Chou, LCSW
Clinical Social Worker at UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital.
Natacha Emerson, PhD
Pediatric Psychology Postdoctoral Fellow.
Rose Healy, RN, MSN, CNS
Inpatient Diabetes Nurse Educator
Nancy Lee, PharmD, CDE
Inpatient Diabetes Pharmacist Educator
Debora Nagata, RN, CDE
Inpatient Diabetes Nurse Educator