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    Diabetes Health Professionals - Topic Overview

    Diabetes is a complex, chronic disease that affects many body systems and requires treatment for the rest of your life. Because diabetes affects so many parts of your body, it has the potential to involve many medical specialists.

    You have a lot to learn about both your disease and how best to manage it. But you do not have to go through this process alone. Health professionals can help you make good choices about your diabetes treatment. Working with a team, you can make the lifestyle changes that allow you greater control over the disease and how it develops over time.

    The following table provides information about the health professionals who may be involved in your care. You need to see some of these professionals regularly. Others you may see only occasionally or if you develop complications.

    Diabetes health professionals

    Professional

    What is their role?

    When would you see them?

    Nurse educator

    Educates people and helps them take control

    Often coordinates treatment

    After diagnosis, to learn about diabetes and the daily treatment (for example, how to give an insulin injection)

    As needed, when daily treatment needs adjusting

    Primary care physician:
    • Internist
    • Family physician
    • Pediatrician

    Other health professionals that may serve as primary care coordinators:

    • Nurse practitioner
    • Physician assistant

    May serve as diabetes care coordinator and is responsible for the day-to-day medical management of diabetes

    Nurse practitioners or physician assistants may also serve as care coordinators.

    Regular visits (2 to 4 times a year)

    Endocrinologist or pediatric endocrinologist

    Specialty medical care (may coordinate care as well)

    Sometimes regular visits, or as treatment problems come up

    Other specialists
    • Nephrologist (kidney specialist)
    • Cardiologist (heart specialist)
    • Neurologist (nerve specialist)
    • Ophthalmologist or optometrist (eye specialists)
    • Podiatrist (foot doctor) or orthopedic surgeon (bone and joint doctor)

    Provide specialty care for specific problems

    Ophthalmologists and podiatrists provide preventive eye and foot care, which helps prevent those specific complications.

    For evaluation, or when a problem develops.

    Registered dietitian

    Educates people and helps them set up and follow their daily meal plan

    Whenever diet and self-management need explaining

    Exercise physiologist

    Educates people and helps them develop an appropriate exercise program for their fitness level

    Initial visit and periodic consultations as needed

    Mental health professionals

    Helps people manage stress and cope with emotional problems, such as depression, that may develop

    Regularly (perhaps weekly), for as long as psychological symptoms go on

    At a minimum, you need to see a doctor, a nurse educator, and a dietitian. At health care facilities that specialize in treating diabetes, you may have a team of all the above professionals and also a pharmacist to help you.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: November 14, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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