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Your Diabetes Team

Learn how specialists such as endocrinologists, dietitians and diabetes educators can help you cope with diabetes.

The best way to manage diabetes? Build your healthcare team. Diabetes is a complex disease that affects several systems in your body -- so it takes a village to effectively treat it. Your primary doctor, although an important member of your team, is not equipped to go it alone. That's where specialists like endocrinologists, dieticians, and certified diabetes educators come in. Here's a list of the specialists you may need to include in your diabetes care:

Primary care physician. Your primary care physician provides the foundation of your diabetes healthcare team. See your doctor at least twice a year (more, if recommended) for a wellness exam and an A1c blood sugar test. Ask for a check of your blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, and kidney values, too.

Endocrinologist. An endocrinologist treats problems with the body's hormone-producing system and is specifically trained to treat the insulin problems common in diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes normally see an endocrinologist, but those with type 2 may not need to if their blood sugar is well controlled.

Diabetes educator. A diabetes educator, also called a certified diabetes educator (CDE), can teach you several ways to better cope with diabetes. This includes instructions on how to use diabetes medications, how to give yourself insulin shots, and how to check your blood sugar levels.

Dietitian. In addition to helping you choose foods that will stabilize rather than increase your blood sugar, a registered dietitian can show you how to read food labels, plan meals, and schedule meals around medications and exercise.

Dentist. People with high blood sugar have less saliva and more salivary sugars in their mouths. This can feed oral bacteria and increase your risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss. See your dentist at least twice a year.

Eye doctor. Diabetes can damage the small blood vessels in your retina and affect your eyesight. Go to an eye doctor who is familiar with diabetes at least once yearly to get screened for cataracts, glaucoma, and any other vision changes.

Foot doctor. Diabetes can get in the way of good circulation and damage the nerves in your feet. Visit a podiatrist twice yearly and inspect your own feet daily for cuts or sores, blisters, injuries, ingrown toenails, or signs of infection.

Exercise physiologist. If your doctor is unable to recommend a safe exercise regimen, ask for a referral to an exercise physiologist trained in diabetes.

Pharmacist. Your pharmacist can educate you about your diabetes medications, their side effects, effects they can have on your blood sugar, and potential drug interactions.

Counselor or therapist. The right mental health expert can help you cope with the emotional impact of diabetes. Also, a social worker can provide resources to help you with any medical or financial difficulties.

Support group. Talking with other people who live with diabetes can give you support and valuable insight into how to cope with your condition. In fact, a recent study found that, compared to normal care or financial incentives, talking with peers with good blood sugar control helped people with diabetes better control their own blood sugar levels.

Friends and family. Nurture ties with friends and family members. They are your first line of understanding, support, and comfort.

You. The most important member of your diabetes healthcare team? You. Ultimately, you're in charge of your healthcare team and your diabetes care plan. So take the driver's seat on your road trip to a younger, healthier life with diabetes.

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