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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

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.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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