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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



How often seen


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


KidneyTreats complications related to kidney failureAs kidney problems develop

Ophthalmologist or optometrist


Monitors your eyes for diabetes complications and treats any vision problems

Regularly, at least once a year


HeartTreats complications related to the heart and circulatory systemAs complications arise



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

As complications arise

Podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon


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.

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