There are a number of different healthcare professionals who treat diabetes. While many people work with their primary care physician to manage diabetes, others rely on one or more doctors and specialists to monitor their condition. Talk to your doctor about testing if you are at risk for diabetes or begin experiencing symptoms associated with the disease. The following sections discuss the different doctors and specialists who can assist in various aspects of diabetes diagnosis and care.
As you get older, regular checkups with your own doctor can monitor you for diabetes. Depending on your symptoms or risk factors, your doctor may perform urine or blood tests to diagnose the disease. If you do have diabetes, your doctor may prescribe medication and manage your condition, or you may be referred to a specialist to help monitor your treatment. It’s likely that your personal doctor will be part of a team of healthcare professionals who will work with you.
Type 1 diabetes is a disease of the pancreas gland, which is part of the endocrine system. An endocrinologist is a specialist who diagnoses, treats, and manages pancreatic diseases. Sometimes, people with type 2 diabetes may also need an endocrinologist if they have trouble getting symptoms under control.
Problems like cataracts, glaucoma, and damage to the retina (retinopathy) are issues for many people with diabetes. You must regularly visit an eye doctor, such an optometrist or ophthalmologist, in order to check for these potentially serious conditions.
Vascular diseases that prevent blood flow to the small vessels are common in people with diabetes. This condition can affect the feet in particular, so you should make regular visits to a podiatrist. People with diabetes also have a reduced ability to heal even minor blisters and cuts. A podiatrist can monitor your feet for any serious infections that could lead to gangrene and amputation.
Staying active and getting enough exercise is needed to manage blood sugar levels and maintain a healthy weight. Getting help from a professional can help you get the most out of your exercise routine and motivate you to stick with it.
Your diet plays a very important role in managing diabetes. If you have trouble finding the right diet to help control your symptoms, get the help of a registered dietitian. They can help you create an eating plan that fits your specific needs.
No matter which doctor or healthcare professional you see first, it’s important to be prepared so you can make the most of your time. Call ahead and see if there is anything you need to do to prepare, such as fasting for a blood test. Make a list of all your symptoms and any medications you are taking, and write down any questions you have before your appointment. Here are a few sample questions to get you started:
- What tests will I need to check for diabetes?
- How will you know what type of diabetes I have?
- Will I have to take shots every day? Or other medication?
- How much does treatment cost?
- What can I do to control my diabetes?
There is no cure for diabetes, and managing the disease is a lifelong endeavor. In addition to working with your doctors to coordinate treatment, joining a support group may help you better cope with diabetes. Several national organizations offer an online community, as well as information about various groups and programs available in cities across the country. Here are a few web resources to check out:
- American Diabetes Association
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
- National Diabetes Education Program
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Diabetes Public Health Resource
Your doctor may also be able to provide resources for support groups and organizations in your area.