Living with and managing your type 2 diabetes isn’t an easy job. You need to monitor your blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Eat right. Exercise regularly. And take your medicine as prescribed. Add that to your work and home responsibilities—and you pretty much have your hands full. But you don’t have to deal with your type 2 diabetes alone.
Your care team is a great source of support. Use the information in this section to learn how to build your health care team.
Building your team
Who should be on your diabetes care team? When should you consult a specialist? Do you need a special diabetes dietitian? Learn how your diabetes care team can help you manage your type 2 diabetes.
Primary teamYour primary team is made up of the health care practitioners you might see on a more regular basis. Learn more about these experts in the primary team section.
Primary care provider
This is the doctor that you see for ongoing medical care. Most likely, he or she will be the person who refers you to the other experts on your team. Primary care providers may also include nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who often work in tandem with a doctor.
This is a doctor who specializes in oral health care. Regular brushing and flossing are crucial to good oral health. People with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk of gum disease. Make sure you visit your dentist every 6 months. And when you do, remind your dentist that you have type 2 diabetes. Let him or her know of any changes in your condition and any medicine you might be taking.
Eye doctor (ophthalmologist/optometrist)
An eye doctor is an important member of the team because type 2 diabetes can affect blood vessels in the eyes. He or she will be able to see changes in your eyes, which may be caused by type 2 diabetes. If changes are found, then the eye doctor will treat the problem or refer you to another doctor with special training in that area. In general, type 2 diabetes guidelines recommend that you see your eye doctor at least once a year.
This is a registered nurse who specializes in caring for and teaching people with type 2 diabetes. Often, he or she is certified in the field of diabetes. A nurse educator can guide you through the daily aspects of type 2 diabetes education and management. He or she can tell you how to make lifestyle changes; show you how to check your blood sugar levels; and much more.
A certified diabetes educator (CDE) is specifically trained to educate and support people with type 2 diabetes. He or she will work with you to help you understand and manage your condition. CDEs have a certification that includes passing a national test covering a variety of topics, including physiology, drug treatment, blood glucose testing, complications, mental health issues, and teaching/learning principles.
Your pharmacist is an important member of your team. He or she can give you advice like telling you how medicines might affect your blood sugar and alerting you to any potential drug interactions, as well as any common or severe side effects. Your pharmacist can also recommend over-the-counter medicines for colds or other minor illnesses.
Your extended team is made up of specialists you might be referred to by your primary doctor. These can include any of the more common specialists you’ll read about below. Or, you might also be sent to a heart doctor (cardiologist) or a kidney specialist (nephrologist).
This is a doctor who specializes in diabetes and thyroid disease. Your doctor may refer you to an endocrinologist if they want you to follow up with a specialist.
Foot doctor (podiatrist)
This is a specialist who treats problems of the feet and lower legs. When you have type 2 diabetes, it is very important that you regularly check your feet for any problems. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, call your doctor. Your doctor should always check your feet at each visit. If he or she sees a problem, you may have to be referred to a foot doctor.
Trained in nutrition, registered dietitians need to pass a national exam. He or she may also have a master’s degree or be a certified diabetes educator (CDE). They can work with you to:
- Develop a meal plan to help you meet your weight loss goals
- Control your blood sugar levels, lower your blood pressure, and improve your cholesterol levels
- Understand food labels and navigate the challenges of eating out
- Balance food with your medications and activity
- How to find a registered dietitian
Your doctor may be able to refer you to a registered dietitian. You may be able to find a registered dietitian in your community through EatRight.org, the website of the American Dietetic Association. Also, free nutrition education given by a registered dietitian may be available through local community groups, health centers, and hospitals. Some health insurance plans may cover registered dietitian services, so be sure to check your policy.