If you have diabetes, you have plenty of company. The number of adults diagnosed with diabetes is increasing daily. You should also be keeping company with a number of health care providers, from your primary care physician to your dentist, eye doctor, and foot doctor.
Diabetes affects the body in many complex ways, and having a team to help you stay as healthy and vital as possible, for as long as possible, is key.
Yet no matter how much you depend on health care providers, you also have an important role as team leader.
You need to be invested in your care—monitoring it, keeping track of appointments and follow-up visits and engaging in a healthful lifestyle. It will make a big difference in your life. Developing a take-charge attitude can help you avoid some of the serious complications that can come with unmanaged diabetes.
Diabetes self-care can be a full-time job. No one but the patient can stay on top of:
Taking daily medications
Planning healthy meals
Controlling weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol
Getting regular exercise
Keeping appointments for regular dental care, eye exams, and foot care
When choosing your health care providers, choose health care professionals who are familiar with diabetes, its effects and its treatments. Ask how many of their patients have diabetes, and what kind of training and experience they have with diabetes care.
Think of these professionals as respected, knowledgeable people who are partners in your care. Don't expect them to second-guess all your needs, or even to remember all the details of your care.
Be open about your symptoms or your fears. Ask questions freely. Having good communication with all your health care providers and being proactive about your care can help you get the high-quality care you deserve.
Who should be on your team? It depends on your personal needs. Typically, patients with diabetes will see several, if not all, of the following health professionals.
Primary care physician (PCP)
This is frequently your family practice doctor, or internal medicine doctor - the doctor you see for all your usual health concerns. This doctor coordinates all your health care needs, including your diabetes care. Because of the PCP's central role, take care in choosing someone who has treated many people with diabetes and whose patient outcomes are good. (Some people with diabetes use an endocrinologist as a PCP. An endocrinologist is a doctor who has special training in diabetes and related illnesses.)
You should feel comfortable with this person, and be sure he or she has a good rapport with you, listens to you, and is concerned about your diabetes control.
Your PCP may occasionally refer you to an eye doctor, foot doctor, heart doctor, or other specialist. Each time you consult with one of these other health care providers, be sure the test results and other information are sent to your PCP, so he or she can stay up to date when coordinating your care.
Let your PCP know of any changes in your treatments, and don't hesitate to ask when your next kidney function test should be done, for example, or when you're due for your next visit with a podiatrist.
To find a primary care physician who can help you diagnose and or manage your diabetes, call the Detroit Medical Center Health Access Line at 888-DMC-2500.
Certified diabetes educator (CDE)
This professional acts as a special partner to both you and your PCP, helping you put all your prescribed treatments into action. The nurse educator has special training in treating and caring for people with diabetes and will provide you with information about diabetes and teach you practical aspects of daily self-care. You'll receive instruction in everything from giving yourself insulin shots and checking your blood sugar to dealing with the symptoms of low blood sugar or insulin reactions.
Diabetes can affect the blood vessels in the eyes and lead to blindness. Unfortunately, once the symptoms are apparent, the damage is usually irreversible. For this reason, the American Diabetes Association recommends people with diabetes see their eye doctor—either an ophthalmologist or optometrist—at least once a year for preventive care. Choose an eye doctor with experience in identifying and treating diabetic eye disease. DMC can help you find the right eye doctor to help you manage your diabetes – call the DMC Health Access Center at 888-DMC-2500 to find the eye doctor that is right for you.
A podiatrist is a doctor specializing in the care of feet and lower legs. Uncontrolled diabetes may lead to poor blood flow, sores, and infections in the feet and lower legs. A podiatrist specializes in these areas of the body and can identify potential problems before they become more serious. DMC can help you find the right podiatrist to help you manage your diabetes – call the DMC Health Access Center at 888-DMC-2500 to find the podiatrist that is right for you.
Because of the increased risks for gum disease and oral infections that come with diabetes, plan to see your dentist twice a year for regular visits. Be sure your dentist knows you have diabetes.
Based upon the progression of your diabetes, or the complications that may arise, your primary care physician may refer you to a number of other physicians for specialized care. Chief among these are Endocrinologists, Cardiology/Vascular Disease Specialists and Surgeons. When looking for a specialist who understands patients with diabetes, consult the DMC’s physician referral service at 888-DMC-2500.
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