Health Library

Diabetes Health Professionals

Topic Overview

Diabetes is a complex, chronic disease that affects many body systems and requires treatment for the rest of your life. Because diabetes affects so many parts of your body, it has the potential to involve many medical specialists.

You have a lot to learn about both your disease and how best to manage it. But you do not have to go through this process alone. Health professionals can help you make good choices about your diabetes treatment. Working with a team, you can make the lifestyle changes that allow you greater control over the disease and how it develops over time.

The following table provides information about the health professionals who may be involved in your care. You need to see some of these professionals regularly. Others you may see only occasionally or if you develop complications.

Diabetes health professionals

Professional

What is their role?

When would you see them?

Nurse educator

Educates people and helps them take control

Often coordinates treatment

After diagnosis, to learn about diabetes and the daily treatment (for example, how to give an insulin injection)

As needed, when daily treatment needs adjusting

Primary care physician:
  • Internist
  • Family physician
  • Pediatrician

Other health professionals that may serve as primary care coordinators:

  • Nurse practitioner
  • Physician assistant

May serve as diabetes care coordinator and is responsible for the day-to-day medical management of diabetes

Nurse practitioners or physician assistants may also serve as care coordinators.

Regular visits (2 to 4 times a year)

Endocrinologist or pediatric endocrinologist

Specialty medical care (may coordinate care as well)

Sometimes regular visits, or as treatment problems come up

Other specialists
  • Nephrologist (kidney specialist)
  • Cardiologist (heart specialist)
  • Neurologist (nerve specialist)
  • Ophthalmologist or optometrist (eye specialists)
  • Podiatrist (foot doctor) or orthopedic surgeon (bone and joint doctor)

Provide specialty care for specific problems

Ophthalmologists and podiatrists provide preventive eye and foot care, which helps prevent those specific complications.

For evaluation, or when a problem develops.

Registered dietitian

Educates people and helps them set up and follow their daily meal plan

Whenever diet and self-management need explaining

Exercise physiologist

Educates people and helps them develop an appropriate exercise program for their fitness level

Initial visit and periodic consultations as needed

Mental health professionals
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Social worker

Helps people manage stress and cope with emotional problems, such as depression, that may develop

Regularly (perhaps weekly), for as long as psychological symptoms go on

At a minimum, you need to see a doctor, a nurse educator, and a dietitian. At health care facilities that specialize in treating diabetes, you may have a team of all the above professionals and also a pharmacist to help you.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
David C.W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
Last Revised July 16, 2013

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