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    Diabetes: Roles on Your Care Team

    Diabetes: Roles on Your Care Team

    Topic Overview

    Your primary care doctor (usually an internist or a family medicine doctor ) is responsible for the day-to-day medical management of your diabetes . He or she also may coordinate your diabetes care. Or a nurse practitioner , nurse educator, or physician assistant may coordinate your care.

    Your health professional will help you find the right oral medicine and possibly insulin to regulate your blood sugar (glucose) level. He or she also will help you adjust medicines as your diabetes changes. For this reason, it is very important that you notify your health professional if your symptoms change.

    Most primary care doctors are excellent at managing diabetes. But if your symptoms get worse or if you have complications, you may need to see a specialist?a doctor who has additional training in a particular field. You should see some specialists, such as an ophthalmologist and podiatrist, regularly. These specialists provide care to prevent eye and foot complications from diabetes.

    Other specialists, such as cardiologists (heart specialists), nephrologists (kidney specialists), or orthopedic surgeons (bone, muscle, and joint specialists), are seen only when a specific complication arises. For some people who have diabetes, it is important to see these specialists at least once a year so they can monitor the complication.

    Roles of specialists

    Team member

    Specialty

    Role

    How often seen

    Endocrinologist

    Endocrine system

    Treats complex cases of diabetes with difficult-to-control blood glucose levels

    Sometimes regular visits, or as treatment problems arise, such as you cannot stay within a target range and hemoglobin A1c levels are higher than desired

    Nephrologist

    Kidney Treats complications related to kidney failure As kidney problems develop

    Ophthalmologist or optometrist

    Eye

    Monitors your eyes for diabetes complications and treats any vision problems

    Regularly, at least once a year

    Cardiologist

    Heart Treats complications related to the heart and circulatory system As complications arise

    Neurologist

    Brain

    Treats brain and nerve disorders, such as strokes and diabetic neuropathy

    As complications arise

    Podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon

    Foot

    Helps you monitor your feet and treats any complications, such as foot ulcers

    As needed for foot problems. Have your primary care doctor examine your feet once a year.

    Other health professionals on a diabetes care team

    Other health professionals who may be involved in your diabetes care include:

    • Mental health professional. Many people with chronic diseases suffer from depression. A psychiatrist , psychologist , or social worker can help you deal with the mental challenges associated with living with diabetes. Also, one of these specialists can help you learn to manage stress, which can affect your glucose control.
    • Exercise physiologist. Physical activity is an important part of your treatment for diabetes, so you may want to work with an exercise physiologist to develop an appropriate exercise program for your fitness level. Exercise physiologists have experience working with people who have varying levels of strength and aerobic capacity. An exercise physiologist can help you devise strategies for staying with your exercise plan.
    • Registered dietitian. Your diet plays a key role in keeping your blood sugar levels within a target range. A registered dietitian has training in nutrition and experience making meal plans and helping people make changes in their lifestyle. Changing your eating habits may be the hardest thing for you to do to care for your diabetes. A registered dietitian can help you take small steps toward the overall goal of a balanced diet.
    • Nurse educator. A nurse educator helps you understand your diabetes and its treatment. Having diabetes is a lifelong challenge. And as your disease changes and progresses, your nurse educator can provide the information you need to adjust and change with it. He or she may also coordinate your diabetes care.

    Related Information

    Credits

    By Healthwise Staff
    Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
    Specialist Medical Reviewer David C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
    Last Revised July 16, 2013

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