Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is a lifelong condition that occurs when the body stops producing sufficient amounts of insulin. As it is a chronic condition, a person living with T1DM will have a diabetes care team of healthcare providers to help them manage their condition and maintain their health.
T1DM occurs when damage to beta cells in the pancreas, likely due to an immune reaction, means the body can no longer produce enough insulin. This hormone helps regulate blood sugar levels — without it, a person’s blood sugar can increase, which can result in various health issues.
To help an individual control the condition, a person living with T1DM will likely have a dedicated team of health experts with varying specialisms. These individual medical professionals work together to provide a holistic care experience and ensure that a person’s T1DM is well-managed.
This article explores the medical professionals that may comprise a person’s interprofessional care team, how a person can prepare for their first visit, and the resources and support available.
Interprofessional care describes how different health professionals work together to help
The benefits of having a care team and health professionals collaborating can include:
- greater accessibility to healthcare
- greater support for education
- a lower wait time to receive appropriate care
Primary care physician
The primary care physician is normally a person’s first point of contact when having health issues. A primary care physician may be the first person to diagnose T1DM. A primary care physician provides a person with routine medical care. This may include performing physical exams, ordering laboratory tests, and prescribing medication.
A primary care physician may also coordinate a person’s T1DM treatment with the other health professionals that are a part of the diabetes care team. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC)
An endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in medical conditions that relate to hormones. Doctors consider diabetes an endocrine disorder as it impacts the pancreas, which is one of the
A doctor will usually refer a person to an endocrinologist.
Ophthalmologist or optometrist
Eye doctors refer to medical experts that specialize in eye care. An ophthalmologist is a medical professional licensed to practice eye medicine and surgery. An optometrist is a person who is trained to examine the eyes and looks for vision defects or abnormalities. An optometrist may refer a person to an ophthalmologist if a person with T1DM requires further treatment or investigation.
Diabetes can affect the health of the eyes. Increased blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in the eye and cause eye conditions such as:
As many diabetic eye conditions typically present without any noticeable symptoms, it is vital that people with diabetes attend yearly eye exams.
A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in treating the foot, ankle, and other structures of the leg. Diabetes can affect the legs in a few different ways. Diabetes can cause nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy, which can cause a person to
Diabetes may also increase the risk of a person having an infection in their feet from cuts and sores. If these infections worsen, a person may need a toe, foot, or partial amputation to prevent the infection from spreading.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), including a podiatrist in a diabetic care team can reduce the risk of having to amputate the lower limb by up to 85%. Additionally, it may lower the risk of hospitalization by 24%.
A pharmacist can
An increase in blood sugar can reduce the amount of saliva that the salivary glands produce in the mouth. This can increase the risk of infections as there is a reduction in saliva flow. The buildup of glucose in the mouth can also provide a suitable environment to let bacteria grow. People with diabetes have a
A registered nurse is a nurse that works in the doctor’s office and helps coordinate a person’s healthcare needs. Registered nurses may spend more time with a person with T1DM and provide support information on how to
A registered dietitian is a person that specializes in nutrition and food. They can help a person with T1DM establish a healthy diet and advise on the type of food and drink that will help them manage their blood sugar. Diet and nutrition are very important to help keep blood sugar levels
Certified diabetes care and education specialist
Certified diabetes care and education specialists (CDCES) are
CDCES normally have accreditation from organizations, such as the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists, to show they have the necessary training.
Mental health professional
People with diabetes are more likely to experience mental health issues
A fitness professional is a person who specializes in physical activity and may help a person with T1DM find exercises and activities that are safe and ensure that they maintain a moderate weight. Fitness professionals may include:
- exercise physiologists
- personal trainers
- physical therapists
Typically, a member of the diabetes care team will provide instructions if they require the person to do anything beforehand. A person may also find it useful to take a notebook to make notes during their meeting and ensure that they understand what is happening in their care plan.
A person can get the most out of their appointments by preparing a list of questions that they may want to ask the medical professional beforehand.
Some questions a person may want to ask
- What is the target range for my blood sugar levels?
- What is my blood pressure, and what should my target be?
- What types of food would you advise I eat? What types of food should I try to limit or avoid?
- What types of physical activities are suitable for me? How often should I exercise?
- What medications will I need to use? Are there any side effects to these medications?
- What is the best way for me to inject insulin? Should I consider using a continuous glucose meter?
Additionally, a person may want to ask the medical professional what they should do between appointments to meet their treatment goals. There may be things a person with T1DM can do at home,
- taking blood glucose measurements
- checking their feet regularly
- taking their medication as prescribed
- keeping a food journal
- keeping an activity journal
Many organizations have resources that can be useful and help support a person living with T1DM. Some examples include:
T1DM is an autoimmune condition that impacts the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin. This can lead to high sugar levels in the blood, which can cause several health issues.
To help prevent potential complications, an individual can work with their interprofessional care team of health experts to help them control their blood sugar levels and manage the condition.