“It is a very precise system,” says Dr. Simone Scumpia, who started Austin Thyroid & Endocrinology. “The beginning of menstruation starts a complicated cycle for a woman. The number of eggs every female has in her lifetime is determined when she herself is in utero. For one of those eggs to be fertilized, the woman needs to have normal thyroid, adrenal and reproductive systems.”
When the ovaries mature, a signal is sent to the pituitary gland — which Dr. Scumpia calls the queen of all glands. “Hormones then begin to be secreted throughout the woman’s body, which command release of the egg. In a way, the entire cycle of a woman is in anticipation of the possibility of pregnancy. In order to have a normal the cycle, all of these glands and reproductive system need to be working correctly.”
From her first year in medical school, Dr. Scumpia began training in endocrinology, and was later mentored by many prominent endocrinologists. She did her internship and residency in Canada, moving to Austin in 1991 to work at the Austin Diagnostic Clinic.
Early on, she envisioned having her own independent hormone institute, offering comprehensive endocrine assessment and treatment. Her dream was realized in 2002, when she opened the integrated center in North Austin. Dr. Scumpia has been called a ”sleuth” in endocrinology and medicine because of her passion to find the root cause of a patient’s symptoms — often those who sought her help for a second or third opinion.
“The problem with the endocrine system – and what makes it so fascinating – is that at any step, something can go wrong,” she says. “We are known as detectives because we have to know the whole system. The symptoms can be very vague, and people end up seeing other specialists for things that are caused by the endocrine system. It can affect any organ in the body.”
Irregularities in the endocrine system that can affect the ability to get pregnant can be inherited, or caused by factors such as illness or surgery. Dr. Scumpia has even seen women who run or work out too much, resulting in a lack of body fat that distresses the cycle and ovulation.
Irregular periods are often a sign of a problematic endocrine system, and women — even young girls just beginning menstruation — should always consult a doctor for an abnormal cycle. “It can set the stage for her entire reproductive life,” Dr. Scumpia advises. “Don’t ignore the signs and think it’s temporary, or just start the pill. Have it checked out.”