What health professionals are involved in treating diabetes?

Dr. Jennifer A. King, MD
Family Practitioner

Multiple types of doctors treat diabetes, including primary care, internal medicine, and endocrinology. Your primary care doctor should order annual labs including fasting sugars, which if elevated could be indicative of diabetes. Once you're diagnosed with diabetes, either your primary care physician or an endocrinologist can treat the diabetes. However, diet and exercise should be first line treatment of diabetes before medication is started.

The best treatment for diabetes is often a multidisciplinary team effort where many professionals are involved with the individual and the family: a physician to manage the diabetes, a mental health therapist to help define and deal with emotional issues, a family therapist to help the family, and a dietitian to provide nutritional counseling and education.

A child with type 1 diabetes has a whole medical team involved in his or her care. The team includes the following health professionals:

  • Pediatric endocrinologist: This doctor makes sure the child is getting the right amount of insulin.
  • Certified diabetes educator: The diabates educator is the person who is always on the end of the phone to answer any questions.
  • Nurse: Helps the child and his or her family learn all about type 1 diabetes.
  • Dietitian: Dietitians are food experts.
  • Psychologist: An expert in helping the child understand and manage his or her thoughts and feelings

Creating a team to help you manage your diabetes can be key to maintaining an optimal quality of life and thwarting the complications typically associated with poor management of the disease. Know your medical team players: 

  • Primary care doctor - He is your go to person for general care.
  • Endocrinologist - He is the specialist who actually has specific training in this disease.
  • Diabetes educator - This expert can be a dietician, registered nurse or even a pharmacist who has received additional training in the care of those with a diagnosis of diabetes. This expert can teach you how to take insulin, check blood glucose levels, manage food choices, specifically count carbohydrates and also help you to achieve goals.
  • Registered dietician (nutritionist) - These are certified members who have extensive experience in helping you create a dietary program that is optimal. You can learn to read food labels, understand how to balance your meals and snacks, how to address nutritional needs pre and post workouts and how to navigate food parties and restaurant eating where you may not have complete control of ingredients and choices.

Other experts you want on your team include: Eye doctor, podiatrist, dentist, exercise coach/personal trainer, pharmacist. If you are struggling with your diagnosis, you may want to engage the help of a mental health professional, even short term. Remember that friends, family and you, yes you, are also integral team members who can help to manage your disease.

Dr. Ileen Craven
Nursing Specialist

The most important person involved in the treatment of diabetes is the person diagnosed with the disease. It is your diagnosis and you should have a say in care, an explanation of the illness, what lifestyle changes are necessary in remaining healthy, and what professionals will help you successfully manage your disease. The members of your healthcare team that will help you can include your physician, a certified diabetes educator, a dietician, a nurse, a nurse practitioner or physician's assistant, and whoever else is part of your medical team.

Ask questions and make sure they give you questions in a language you understand. It is best to write the questions down before you see your healthcare professional. Also, your family loves you and they need to be an important part of your treatment team. People can live long and healthy lives with diabetes. Make sure you get the help, support, and education you need.

Continue Learning about Diabetes

Are You Ready to Try a Plant-Based Diet?
Are You Ready to Try a Plant-Based Diet?
If you’ve read anything about healthy eating plans for people with diabetes, you’ve probably seen the term “plant-based diet.” But what does it mean? ...
Read More
What is an insulin response?
Neal SpruceNeal Spruce
This is a tough question because insulin responds to virtually everything you put in your body.  But...
More Answers
How to Get the Best Possible Care for Your Diabetes
How to Get the Best Possible Care for Your DiabetesHow to Get the Best Possible Care for Your DiabetesHow to Get the Best Possible Care for Your DiabetesHow to Get the Best Possible Care for Your Diabetes
The right backup can help you live well and worry less about complications.
Start Slideshow
Watch Your Blood Sugar to Prevent Alzheimer's Disease
Watch Your Blood Sugar to Prevent Alzheimer's Disease

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.