Who’s on Your Healthcare Team?

According to the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP), people with diabetes experience fewer complications and hospitalizations when a team of healthcare professionals cares for them.

To help you realize these benefits, here are some professionals you should consider for your diabetes care team.

Primary Care Physician (PCP): The doctor you see for regular checkups and when you are ill. When selecting a PCP, find one with experience in diabetes care or consider an endocrinologist: a specialist with training in diabetes.

Pharmacist: In the course of filling prescriptions, people with diabetes often see a pharmacist more often than their PCP. Pharmacists are a valuable resource if you have questions about your blood glucose meter, medications, or insulin. If you are having issues, your pharmacist may be able to give you advice, suggest an over-the-counter product, or refer you to a specialist in your area. Some pharmacists even provide one-on-one consultations.

Certified Diabetes Educator: This person can be a registered nurse (RN), a pharmacist, or another health professional with special training in diabetes care and instruction. This person plays an important role in helping you master the everyday aspects of diabetes self-management.

Registered Dietitian (RD): With special training in nutrition, a dietitian can help determine your food needs based on your ideal weight, lifestyle, medication, and other health goals, such as lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure. Even if you have had diabetes for decades, periodic consultations with a dietitian are important because nutrition needs change as we age.

Eye Doctor: Diabetes can damage blood vessels in the eyes, which leads to vision loss. An eye doctor – ophthalmologist or optometrist – is a vital member of your healthcare team. See an eye doctor at least once a year to check for changes in your eyes.

Podiatrist: Diabetes can impair blood flow and cause nerve damage in the lower legs and feet, so it is important to see a podiatrist. You should also see a podiatrist if you notice any problems such as skin changes, ulcers, nail infections, or if you begin to lose feeling in your feet.

Exercise Physiologist: Exercise has been shown to lower blood sugar, help you metabolize insulin, and control weight all important factors for good diabetes management. An exercise physiologist can tailor a fitness program to your individual needs and capabilities.

Dentist: Diabetes increases the risk of gum disease, because excess blood sugar creates an ideal environment for bacteria to grow. See your dentist every six months and make sure to tell him or her that you have diabetes.

Mental Health Professional: The personal and emotional aspects of living with diabetes can sometimes cause problems at home or work. A licensed social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, or marriage/family therapist can help.

You: The most important member of your team. You experience the effects of diabetes firsthand and are responsible for managing it day-to-day. It is up to you to communicate honestly with the rest of your team, so they can help you get the greatest benefit from your healthcare.