Putting Together a Diabetes Care Team
People with diabetes can benefit from seeing a diabetes educator or registered dietitian. Learn how to assemble your medical team.

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Putting Together a Diabetes Care Team

There is no such thing as "a touch of" diabetes. Diabetes is a serious disease. It can affect almost every part of your body, including your heart, kidneys, eyes and legs. It may cause nervous system disease and affect dental health. People with diabetes are more likely to die from pneumonia and influenza.

But diabetes is manageable. Make sure you get a team of professionals working with you and with one another. Each one can address a different aspect of the disease and help you manage it. Together, you can make sure to keep your blood sugar levels where they should be. And you can tackle any complications that may arise.

Your team may include some or all of the following:

  • Primary care doctor. Your primary care physician is the person you see for regular checkups or when you get sick. He or she may be a family doctor (all ages), internist (adults) or pediatrician (children). If you don't have an endocrinologist on your team, choose a primary care doctor who sees many people with diabetes. Your primary care doctor may also be the person who refers you to specialists.
  • Registered dietitian. A good diet plays a vital part in diabetes care. A registered dietitian, who is trained and has passed a national exam, can help. Dietitians can teach you how foods affect your blood sugar and fat levels. They can give you advice on how to balance eating with medications and activity, how to plan meals and how to read labels. They can suggest how to eat if you're sick and how to plan for eating out.
  • Diabetes educator. This is a health care professional with special training in diabetes. They can include nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, exercise physiologists and podiatrists. They can help you manage the day-to-day aspects of the disease. They can teach you how to give yourself insulin shots, test your blood sugar and recognize signs of high or low blood sugar.
  • Eye doctor. Diabetes can cause vision problems because it affects the blood vessels in the eyes. It can eventually cause blindness. An eye doctor can help catch the problems early, when treatments have a good chance of success. An eye doctor can be either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist.
  • Foot doctor. Also known as a podiatrist, a foot doctor can help you fight potential infections and complications of poor blood flow. Both problems are associated with diabetes. Even small sores or calluses can turn into serious problems.
  • Dentist. Diabetes can contribute to gum disease. That's because of the higher level of blood sugar in the mouth. Watch for swollen, tender or bleeding gums, which are early signs of disease. Visit your dentist every six months - or more frequently if she recommends. Make sure your dentist knows you have diabetes.
  • Mental health professional. Diabetes is a tough disease. It may cause a lot of stress and worry. A trained professional can steer you through the emotional waters of diabetes and give you an outlet for your concerns. This person may be a social worker, a psychologist, a psychiatrist or a marriage and family therapist.
  • Pharmacist. Pharmacists are highly trained in drugs and chemistry. They know how different medicines interact. They can advise you on whether you might have side effects with a certain drug. Ask them about potential problems with taking even an over-the-counter drug with your diabetes medicines.

Finally, count yourself as the most important member of your team. Help the professionals come up with a plan that will work for you. Report any problems or concerns. Then make the right choices every day to take care of your health.

By Emily Gurnon, Contributing Writer
Created on 08/08/2008
Updated on 01/08/2013
Sources:
  • American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes – 2012. Diabetes Care. 2012; 35:S11-S63.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National diabetes fact sheet, 2011.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is diabetes?
  • National Diabetes Education Program. 4 steps to control your diabetes. For life.
Copyright © OptumHealth.
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