Your Diabetes Care Team
If you have diabetes, you likely have a care team that may include a primary care doctor, dietitian, diabetes educator, eye doctor, foot doctor, dentist, and possibly an exercise trainer. Keep in mind, though, that you are the most important member of your diabetes care team. Your health care team is available to help you manage your diabetes and maintain your good health.
Who's on Your Diabetes Care Team?
According to the American Diabetes Association, your diabetes care team should include:
- You: You are the most important member of your diabetes care team. Only you know how you feel. Your diabetes care team will depend on you to talk to them honestly and supply information about your body. Monitoring your blood sugar is an important part of effective therapy. It tells your doctors whether your current treatment is effective. Your participation in monitoring your blood sugar levels will also help prevent or reduce the episodes of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
- Primary doctor: Your primary care doctor is the doctor you see for general checkups and when you get sick. This person is usually an internist or family medicine doctor who has experience treating people with diabetes. Because your primary care doctor is your main source of care, he or she will most likely head up your diabetes care team.
- Endocrinologist: An endocrinologist should also be seen regularly. An endocrinologist is a doctor who has special training and experience in treating people with diabetes.
- Dietitian: A registered dietitian (RD) is trained in the field of nutrition. Because food is a key part of your diabetes treatment, a dietitian is very important. Your dietitian helps you figure out your food needs based on your weight, lifestyle, medication, and other health goals (such as lowering blood fat levels or blood pressure).
- Nurse educator: A nurse/diabetes educator or diabetes nurse practitioner is a registered nurse (RN) with special training and background in caring for and teaching people with diabetes. Nurse educators often help you learn the day-to-day aspects of diabetes self-care.
- Eye Doctor: This doctor is another key member of your diabetes care team, because diabetes can affect the blood vessels in the eyes. The eye doctor will be either an ophthalmologist (a doctor who can treat eye problems both medically and surgically) or an optometrist (someone who is trained to examine the eye for certain problems, such as how well the eye focuses; optometrists are not medical doctors). You should see your eye doctor at least once a year.
- Podiatrist: This health professional is trained to treat feet and problems of the lower legs. For anyone with diabetes, which can cause nerve damage in the extremities, foot care is important. Podiatrists have a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) degree from a college of podiatry. They have also done a residency (hospital training) in podiatry.
- Dentist: People with diabetes are at somewhat greater -- and earlier -- risk of gum disease. The excess blood sugar in your mouth makes it a nice home for bacteria, which can lead to infection. You should see your dentist every six months. Be sure to tell your dentist that you have diabetes.
- Exercise trainer: Exercise plays a major role in your diabetes care, no matter what kind of diabetes you have. The best person to plan your fitness program -- along with your doctor -- is someone trained in the scientific basis of exercise and in safe conditioning methods.