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How to Get the Best Possible Care for Your Diabetes

The right backup can help you live well and worry less about complications.

Medically reviewed in March 2022

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If you have diabetes, you’re not alone: About 11.5 percent of Americans report having been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in the last eight years alone, according to a report from the Gallup-Healthways State of Well-Being Index.

The report measured diabetes rates in all 50 states and 190 communities across the country. Despite an overall increase in cases, some areas have had success in tackling the epidemic. What can we learn from places like Boulder, Colorado, where less than five percent of people have diabetes? Researchers point to the importance of having a dedicated health team that will have your back through every stage of diabetes treatment.

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It takes a village

Taking the best possible care of your diabetes means more than just a once-a-year visit to your family doctor: You need a wellness plan and a multidisciplinary care team that will help you stick to it.

Multidisciplinary care means working with healthcare providers (HCPs) from a number of specialties. Getting different perspectives can improve your care by:

  • Catching health changes early—across every one of your body systems
  • Preventing diabetes complications like nerve damage and poor vision
  • Updating your med list and care plan according to the latest research in each specialty
  • Giving you more chances to ask questions and voice concerns
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Your family doctor

Your family doctor is your healthcare home base. He or she looks at your health as one big picture, including your entire medication list, every body system and all of your medical conditions. Their role may include:

  • Following up with specialists after your appointments to make sure the different members of your health team are all on the same page
  • Making sure your meds and treatments make sense together as an overall plan
  • Advocating for you by letting other HCPs know about your unique needs

They may also refer you to specialists to screen for diabetes complications or to treat any new conditions you develop.

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Your diabetes doctor

Your diabetes doctor, or endocrinologist, is specially trained to understand how glands, such as your pancreas, work. Diabetes develops if your pancreas can't produce enough insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar, or if your body stops responding to insulin. Unpredictable spikes and dips in blood sugar can lead to health problems like nerve and kidney damage over time.

Your endocrinologist will make sure that you’re taking the proper amount of insulin or other medications based on your blood sugar and A1C level, a blood test that shows your average blood sugar over recent months. He or she may also work closely with you to prevent or treat diabetes complications.

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Your diabetes educator

No matter how long you’ve been living with diabetes, there’s always more you could learn. A diabetes educator can:

  • Show you how to use your blood sugar monitor
  • Answer questions about your meds, including how to take insulin
  • Help you find delicious, diabetes friendly foods that fit your budget
  • Introduce you to apps and health tools to help you meet your health goals

Ask your family doctor for a referral or find an educator near you through the American Association of Diabetes Educators location tool. Medicare and most insurance companies typically cover at least 10 hours of training.​

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Your eye doctor

Diabetes can affect your eyesight in a number of ways. For example, it could cause changes to the blood vessels in your eyes, which may lead to vision loss over time. In fact, people with proliferative diabetic retinopathy—a serious diabetes complication that can cause blindness—may not notice any vision changes on their own until it’s too late for treatment.

Regular checkups can detect changes early, when they’re still highly treatable. That’s why it’s so important to visit an eye doctor at least once a year. Get in touch with a provider who’s familiar with diabetic eye diseases through Sharecare’s find a doctor tool.

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Your foot doctor

A foot doctor, or podiatrist, should also be a key player on your health team. Diabetes can cause nerve damage and decreased blood flow in your feet. Those changes may lead to severe pain, falls and injuries if left untreated. Since diabetes also slows down wound healing, injuries could become life threatening if they get infected.

Make an appointment with your podiatrist at least once a year so he or she can:

  • Test for nerve changes in your feet
  • Fit you for special diabetic shoes to protect your feet from injuries
  • Treat any wounds or calluses you’ve developed

Between visits, inspect your feet daily and wear well-fitting shoes, even when walking around the house.

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Your heart doctor

People with diabetes are at a higher risk for heart disease and strokes. Consider working with a heart doctor, or cardiologist, to:

  • Learn more about your risk for heart disease
  • Get your blood pressure or cholesterol under control
  • Treat any heart-related problems that may arise

If you have additional risk factors like smoking, obesity or a sedentary lifestyle, a cardiologist can help you make healthy changes. He or she can work with you to set goals and track your progress over time. They may also prescribe medications to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol.

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