10 health care pros to recruit for your diabetes management team
When it comes to type 2 diabetes, you're not alone--and you shouldn't be. Recent studies show that working with a team of diabetes specialists can decrease your risk of complications, improve blood sugar control and empower your daily, self-care routine.
The diabetes management team: who plays what position?
The patient is always the star of the team: No one knows better than you how you feel, how your insulin is working, or what triggers a blood sugar swing. You're responsible for the majority of your diabetes treatment--testing blood sugar, eating right, administering insulin. You want diabetes specialists with whom you have an open dialogue, and who can help you stay focused on staying healthy.
Here are 10 important players you might want to consider recruiting:
- Primary care physician. Your regular doctor should be someone with whom you can have honest and open communication about how you're feeling on a regular basis. She or he conducts regular blood glucose testing, monitors any other physiological responses to medication, and keeps an eye potential diabetes-related complications. Look for a primary care physician who has experience with diabetes, and be sure that you feel as if this general practitioner listens to your concerns.
- Certified diabetes educator.Specializing in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, these health educators are perhaps the most important players in day-to-day, self-care with diabetes. Just some of the insights a diabetes nurse educator may provide include how to monitor medication; working with insulin and managing medications; tracking blood sugar and diabetes; and what to do in case of an insulin reaction.
- Endocrinologist. Specializing in diseases of the endocrine glands and system, endocrinologists can help when diabetes complications arise related to the pancreas, insulin or glucagon monitoring, and hormone medication management. They may or may not be necessary for diabetes management teams, depending upon the level of difficulty a patient has keeping blood sugar regulated and complications at bay.
- Ophthalmologist or optometrist. Keeping an eye doctor on your health care team is essential to preventing or staving off diabetes complications related to vision. Whether you choose to get yearly eye exams or increase their frequency, an eye doctor should look for changes in the eyes.
- Podiatrist. According to the NIMH, screening the feet and legs for diabetes-related foot disease or neuropathy has significantly reduced the instance of amputations and foot-related hospital admissions. Podiatrists may work in conjunction with vascular surgeons, footwear specialists and other members of a diabetes treatment team.
- Pharmacist. While results of NIH studies are still inconclusive due to research design, in general, involving a pharmacist in diabetes treatment may have "positive effects on patient AIC, lipids and blood pressure values." As you and your primary care doctor, endocrinologist or other diabetes specialists pursue medication management, a pharmacist can play an integral role in dosage, drug interaction and education on medication side effects.
- Registered dietitian. This team member may also be your certified diabetes educator. Regardless, it is difficult to overstate the role of understanding how diet impacts diabetes, and your body, specifically. Choose a dietitian who specializes in diabetes care.
- Mental health professional. Whether you need to address personal depression or family coping issues, this nurse, psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker can help. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) can help low-income persons with diabetes locate and use medical resources that are otherwise challenging to find.
- Exercise physiologist. If your name isn't Jillian Michaels or Tony Horton, you may need a helping hand with developing an exercise habit that works well with a diabetes treatment plan. Ask your primary care physician for a recommendation of someone with graduate-level training in the science of exercise.
- Dental health professionals: Growing evidence suggests there may be a link between teeth and gum health and diabetes. Check in with your dentist or periodontist, as soon as you learn you have diabetes to see what steps you should take.
Regular communication and readily available documentation of all the care you've received can help your team run smoothly. Ask your primary care physician, certified diabetes educator or endocrinologist how you should keep things organized. Then, work together. That's how teams succeed.
American Diabetes Association, "Your Health Care Team"
CDC, "Team Care: Comprehensive Lifetime Management for Diabetes"