People with diabetes will usually see their general care physician every few months for a regular check-up.
This article helps people with diabetes to understand the key differences between the various diabetes specialists.
It also covers some common guidelines to follow for visiting each of these experts, to ensure you get the most out of your treatment.
Contents of this article:
Which doctors help with treating diabetes?
There are a number of diabetes specialists who may be involved in treating someone with this common condition.
As each of these specialists has a slightly different role, there are some key things to be aware of before seeing each one.
General care physicians
A general care physician will often help in the treatment of people with diabetes. Regular check-ups will usually be carried out once every 3 to 4 months.
If there is anything outside their area of expertise, a general care physician will frequently send an individual to an endocrinologist first of all.
The most common specialists in the field of diabetes are endocrinologists.
Endocrinologists specialize in the glands of the body, and the hormones that are produced from those glands.
The pancreas is a gland that comes under the spotlight when managing diabetes. It produces insulin that helps regulate blood sugar. In the case of people with diabetes, insulin is either not produced or does not work properly.
People with type 1 diabetes are put under the care of an endocrinologist most of the time. People with type 2 diabetes, who have fluctuating blood sugar levels, will also need to see an endocrinologist.
Visiting a doctor for diabetes
When visiting a doctor about diabetes for the first time, it is important that a person prepares themselves for their visit.
Keeping a journal
For at least a week before the appointment, an individual should keep a journal of all the symptoms they have. The journal should include any symptoms, whether they might be related to diabetes or not.
A doctor will want to use the journal as a reference when creating an individual's treatment plan. This is crucial as not every case of diabetes can be treated the same.
It is important to understand requirements around fasting for a first-time visit.
Many first-time visits will require a person to take a fasting blood glucose test. This means not eating or drinking anything but water for at least 8 hours prior to the test. Fasting tests are best scheduled early in the morning, when going 8 hours without food can be done overnight, when a person is asleep.
It is also very helpful for people to bring a notebook or laptop when visiting their doctor for the first time, in order to jot down information. This helps to keep track of the important things that are discussed and any questions that come up.
Properly preparing for the first visit to a doctor can help make sure it is as productive as possible, and that it clarifies diabetes and its various complications.
Support networks for people with diabetes
A doctor or endocrinologist can help people with diabetes to understand the facts about the best course of treatment for them. But this is just one aspect that may help someone manage the condition successfully.
Having a larger support network of relevant specialists can really make the difference in treatment for people with diabetes.
A dietitian can help someone with diabetes find a balanced diet that suits their lifestyle.
Understanding the roles of proteins, fats, and, specifically, carbohydrates, in the body is important for diabetes management. Dietitians can also discuss:
Dieticians can help individuals with type 1 or 2 diabetes plan their meals and manage their blood sugar.
- the best methods for portion control
- dining out with diabetes
- ways to manage blood sugar successfully
In addition, dietitians are trained in providing people with self-management skills for:
- testing blood glucose at home
- administering injections
- managing high or low blood sugar
Certified Diabetes Educators
Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE) are health professionals who have extensive knowledge and experience of the latest news and practices for managing or preventing diabetes and prediabetes.
They have specialized training in how to educate people about managing their diabetes in order to optimize their health in the future.
Visiting a CDE can also help people with diabetes to understand their condition.
Anyone with diabetes is at a greater risk of kidney diseases over time than someone without the condition. Regular testing is needed to monitor kidney function. This is normally carried out by a general doctor.
If a doctor finds something that needs closer inspection, they may refer a person to a nephrologist for additional tests. A nephrologist is a doctor who specializes in helping to take care of the kidney.
Physical activity plays an important role in the management of diabetes by:
- helping maintain blood sugar levels
- helping promote a healthy weight
- keeping the circulatory system strong
People can work with a physical trainer to create a personalized exercise program that works for them.
People with diabetes may benefit from seeing a podiatrist regularly. This is because diabetes that is not properly controlled can damage the nerves in the legs and feet.
Damaged nerves in the legs and feet can cause a disorder called sensory diabetic neuropathy. This is the inability to feel heat, cold, or pain.
People with diabetes are at risk of several eye conditions and should visit an ophthalmologist regularly.
People with diabetes are often encouraged to get regular checkups with eye doctors, otherwise known as ophthalmologists. This is because diabetes may affect a person's eyes.
People with diabetes are much more likely to develop eye conditions, such as:
An ophthalmologist will regularly check for symptoms of eye disorders. This helps to prevent them or treat them as soon as possible.
People with diabetes may also be at an increased risk for gum diseases. Proper dental hygiene can help to prevent gum disease.
Regular visits to a dentist can track any changes in gum health and decide a new or improved treatment plan.
When to see a specialist
Seeing a specialist for diabetes is not necessary in every case. There are plenty of people with type 2 diabetes who manage their blood sugar levels on their own, at home.
For others, there can be complications or signs that they may need to see a specialist. Reasons for a person to see a specialist include:
- regular treatment options failing
- new symptoms surfacing
- recurring symptoms or symptoms worsening
- complex daily treatments such as insulin pumps or multiple injections
- being confused by educational materials
- having difficulties finding the right insulin levels or treatments
- problems searching for the latest treatment options
- needing help with understanding and managing a healthful diet
- participating in experimental research or case studies
General care physicians will do all they can to assist an individual to treat diabetes. However, there are times when a specialist is appropriate.
Regular checkups with specialists are usually a good idea. General care physicians can refer an individual to a number of specialists to help their treatment plan succeed.