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Newly Diagnosed? Your Healthcare Team is there to Guide You

separator Finding out you have diabetes can be overwhelming. Suddenly you need to eat differently, focus on your health differently, check your feet, go to the dentist more frequently, take care of your heart….at the beginning, it might seem like too much too fast.

Your healthcare team is there to guide you through this process, starting from the early days after your diagnosis.

►        Who’s on your care team?
People with diabetes generally have the following healthcare providers on their care team:

  • Primary doctor for diabetes (this can be an internist, family practitioner or endocrinologist)
  • Certified diabetes educator (also sometimes called nurse educator)
  • Dietitian
  • Ophthalmologist (eye doctor)
  • Dentist

Your primary diabetes doctor should have experience treating people with diabetes. Be sure to ask about that. If your doctor doesn’t have much diabetes experience, it’s important to find another doctor who does.

Your primary care doctor may automatically refer you to other members of your diabetes care team, but if not, ask for the referrals yourself.

Your certified diabetes educator (CDE) is there to answer all kinds of questions you have about diabetes. CDEs can help explain what your medications are for; how to take insulin; how to check your blood sugar and how often; how to understand the relationship between food, exercise and insulin; how to manage any diabetes complications that arise; how often to see your other care providers. It’s important to visit with your diabetes educator on a regular basis, because often, your diabetes status changes over time, and your CDE can help you make adjustments to your care plan when necessary.

A registered dietitian can focus in on the details of your food plan with you. Since food is such an important component of diabetes care, your dietitian is an invaluable member of your team. Be sure to talk about the kinds of foods you’re used to eating, and make sure your food plan reflects your culture. For example, some people may eat rice or tortillas much more often than they eat bread, so be sure to mention those kinds of things with your dietitian.

Regular visits with your ophthalmologist are a key component of your diabetes care. Untreated eye problems related to diabetes are the leading cause of blindness. Routine eye exams can help spot eye problems early, when treatment is usually simple and success rates are highest. Your ophthalmologist will tell you how frequent your appointments should be.

Since diabetes can increase the risk of dental problems, visit your dentist as soon as you know you have diabetes. Like the other members of the team, your dentist can set up a schedule that addresses the increased importance of caring for your teeth and gums.

Other members of the team, as you need them, may include

  • Podiatrist—if you begin to experience problems with your feet, regular visits to the podiatrist will become necessary.
  • Counselor—sometimes, having diabetes can create stress, depression or other mental health issues. This is common for most people with diabetes at some point in their lives. A mental health professional can talk about your situation with you, suggest options for handling any difficulties, work with family members if necessary and in general, help you handle these types of concerns before they get out of hand.
  • Exercise specialist—if exercise hasn’t been a regular part of your life, an exercise specialist can work with you to create a physical activity plan that’s appropriate for your age, health and work or school schedule.

►        Who else is on your care team?

  • YOU!
  • Your spouse or other family members.

Without your input and participation, there’s no real team at all. To create a care plan that works for you, it’s important to talk to your team about your lifestyle, your values, the challenges you think will be hardest for you and anything else that might affect your ability to take care of yourself.

Check in with your diabetes care team often. If you have questions, ask them early. If you’re having problems, discuss them with the team. If you’re feeling depressed, talk about that with your counselor.

With diabetes, as with most things in life, the sooner you address your issues and concerns, the easier it will be to resolve them.

The American Diabetes Association; The National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders.
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