Finding the right team of skilled health professionals will help you manage your diabetes. Individuals with diabetes are often treated by a primary care physician, usually a family medicine specialist or internist. However primary care physicians will refer patients with more severe diabetes, particularly those requiring insulin therapies, to a diabetes specialist or endocrinologist.
Doctors and patients need to be partners. If you are consulting your diabetes specialist or endocrinologist for the first time, make sure you get to know each other and are comfortable discussing your health and lifestyle with your doctor. Important questions you need to ask your doctor include: What is your clinic schedule? What is your contact number in case an emergency arises? Who covers for you in case you are not available?
A registered dietitian (RD) works with your diabetes specialist or endocrinologist in helping you plan and adopt a diet based on your desired weight, lifestyle, medication and other health goals such as lowering cholesterol levels or blood pressure. An RD can also help you learn how the foods you eat affect your blood sugar and cholesterol levels; to balance food with medications and activity; to read food labels; to plan meals and to make food substitutions, among others.
A nurse educator is a registered nurse with special training in caring for and teaching people with diabetes. He or she can help you learn the day-to-day aspects of diabetes self-care, such as recognizing symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia (low and high blood glucose, respectively); how to use diabetes medications, including insulin; and how to check your blood sugar, among others.
As your healthcare needs change, your diabetes specialist or endocrinologist may decide to add other specialists to your diabetes care team. For example, a patient who is planning a pregnancy will need an obstetrician in her team. A patient who develops diabetes-related kidney problems will need a nephrologist in his team.
The most important member of your diabetes care team is you. You are the one who decides to adopt healthy habits and take the right medications in order to manage your diabetes. You are the one who checks your blood glucose levels regularly. You are the one who works closely with your diabetes care team. But you do not have to face diabetes alone. With teamwork, we can manage your diabetes.
CONTEST: Diabetes is a disease of the endocrine system. True or False? E-mail your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org and get the chance to win a prize! Congratulations to Dianne Chua! Your correct answer to the question in the July 13, 2013 column was chosen as this week’s winner in the Diabetes Trivia Contest. You will receive an e-mail on how to claim your prize.
Dr. Francis I. Pasaporte is a diabetes specialist. The “Changing Diabetes” column commemorates the 92nd anniversary of insulin’s discovery. It aims to increase awareness on diabetes prevention, diagnosis and management. Novo Nordisk supports “Changing Diabetes.” Headquartered in Denmark, Novo Nordisk is a global healthcare company with 90 years of innovation and leadership in diabetes care. For questions or comments, e-mail email@example.com.