Coordinating Your Care, Even When You are Sick at Home
For those with diabetes or those supporting loved ones with diabetes, it’s important to be on the lookout for changes in health status. You don’t have to manage risks and your treatment plan alone. Working with your diabetes care team can help you build (and stick with) the best plan for your whole body. And even if you are sick at home, a check in visit with your care team can help to keep you on track.
Who’s Who in a Diabetes Care Team?
Ready to build your well-rounded care team? Start by knowing that you are the most important member of your diabetes care team. Take an active role in decision making and be sure to let your team know what your goals are.
Next, think about each doctor and specialist you currently see. Is there anyone missing you need to see so you can best manage your symptoms and risks?
- Primary Care Provider (PCP): Who you typically see for routine medical care, including regular care for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and illness.
- Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES): Trained to engage people with diabetes to care for their body. They often provide diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) services.
- Registered Dietitian: A nutrition expert who can help you develop an eating pattern that will support healthy blood glucose (blood sugar), cholesterol, and blood pressure.
Additional Specialist Support:
- Endocrinologist: Treats conditions of the endocrine system. Endocrinologists specialize in helping patients gain control of diabetes and other hormone-related diseases.
- Cardiologist: Treats cardiovascular conditions, including those related to or caused by diabetes. They may adjust your medications and plan based on your heart and stroke risk.
- Nephrologist: Treats conditions related to your kidneys, like kidney disease. They may adjust medications to protect your kidneys and based on your heart and stroke risk.
- Optometrist: Some diabetes-related eye diseases have no signs or symptoms until they are too obvious to ignore, but getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam every year can catch conditions early before permanent damage is done. An optometrist can find and treat certain eye conditions and diseases. They can also prescribe glasses and contact lenses.
- Ophthalmologist: Can also perform comprehensive dilated eye exams. Finds, diagnoses, and treats all eye diseases, including severe eye problems. They can also prescribe glasses and contact lenses.
- Podiatrist: As a person with diabetes a podiatrist helps you keep your feet and legs healthy by looking for nerve damage and problems caused by diabetes, such as poor circulation.
- Pharmacist: Fills your prescriptions but can also help you monitor your blood glucose, offer education, identify medicine-related problems, and more.
- Dentist: Takes care of your teeth with regular care like cleanings which can lower your A1C and reduce your risk of gum disease (which is higher for diabetes patients).
- Mental Health Professional: Can help you deal with the daily challenges and emotional weight of living with diabetes. This could be a psychiatrist, social worker, counselor, psychologist or therapist.
- Fitness Professional: Helps you build an exercise routine that is safe for you. This can be an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, or physical therapist. Work with someone who understands diabetes so you can be sure your blood glucose is taken into consideration.
Why a Cardiologist is Important
A cardiologist can assess your risk for heart disease and stroke and help you with a plan to protect your heart from possible complications of diabetes. If you have heart disease and you have not spoken with a cardiologist yet, ask your primary care doctor for a referral – they probably have someone they work with regularly.
Here are some starter questions to take to your appointment:
- What are my personal risk factors for heart disease or stroke?
- Which risk factors can I control?
- What foods should I eat? What should I avoid?
- Can you review my list of current medications?
- How often should I have my blood pressure and cholesterol checked?
- What else should I monitor?
If You Need Help: Getting Started
DSMES services can help you learn how to manage diabetes. A certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) can coach you and give you tools to navigate an illness and support your treatment plan. Ask your primary care physician for a referral at your next appointment. Many DSMES services now offer telehealth options. To find a DSMES service near you, check out the DSMES locator.
When it comes to diabetes, your care team can go a long way toward helping you keep your whole body, including your heart, as healthy as can be. Keep regular appointments with all your specialists to lower your overall risks of diabetes-related complications.
Learn more and receive emails from Know Diabetes by Heart at www.knowdiabetesbyheart.org.
For More Information
Teaming Up: How to Play and Active Role in Your Diabetic Care to Minimize Heart Risk
How to Find Diabetes Support