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Diabetes Health Center

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Diabetes: Roles on Your Care Team - Topic Overview

Your primary care doctor is responsible for the day-to-day medical management of your diabetes. (This doctor is usually an internist or a family medicine doctor.) 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, be sure to tell 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. This is a doctor who has extra 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 problems from diabetes.

Other specialists are seen only when a problem occurs. For example, if you have a complication that affects your heart, you may need to see a cardiologist. For kidney problems, you may need to see a nephrologist. An orthopedic surgeon can help with bone, muscle, or joint problems. 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

This doctor 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


Kidney He or she treats problems related to kidney failure. As kidney problems develop

Ophthalmologist or optometrist


These doctors monitor your eyes for diabetes complications and treats any vision problems.

Regularly, at least once a year


Heart He or she treats problems related to the heart and circulatory system. As problems arise



This doctor treats brain and nerve disorders, such as strokes and diabetic neuropathy.

As problems arise

Podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon


They help you monitor your feet and treat any problems, such as foot ulcers.

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

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