Newly Diagnosed? Your Healthcare Team is there to Guide You
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
► Who’s on your
People with diabetes generally have the following healthcare providers on their
- Primary doctor for
diabetes (this can be an internist, family practitioner or endocrinologist)
- Certified diabetes
educator (also sometimes called nurse educator)
- Ophthalmologist (eye
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
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
- 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?
- Your spouse or other
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.