Skip to Content

Diabetes: Roles on Your Care Team

Topic Overview

Your primary care doctor (usually an internist or a family medicine doctor) is responsible for the day-to-day medical management of your diabetes. He or she also may coordinate your diabetes care. Or a nurse practitioner, nurse educator, or physician assistant may coordinate your care.

Your health professional will help you find the right oral medicine and possibly insulin to regulate your blood sugar (glucose) level. He or she also will help you adjust medicines as your diabetes changes. For this reason, it is very important that you notify your health professional if your symptoms change.

Most primary care doctors are excellent at managing diabetes. But if your symptoms get worse or if you have complications, you may need to see a specialist—a doctor who has additional training in a particular field. You should see some specialists, such as an ophthalmologist and podiatrist, regularly. These specialists provide care to prevent eye and foot complications from diabetes.

Other specialists, such as cardiologists (heart specialists), nephrologists (kidney specialists), or orthopedic surgeons (bone, muscle, and joint specialists), are seen only when a specific complication arises. For some people who have diabetes, it is important to see these specialists at least once a year so they can monitor the complication.

Roles of specialists

Team member

Specialty

Role

How often seen

Endocrinologist

Endocrine system

Treats complex cases of diabetes with difficult-to-control blood glucose levels

Sometimes regular visits, or as treatment problems arise, such as you cannot stay within a target range and hemoglobin A1c levels are higher than desired

Nephrologist

Kidney Treats complications related to kidney failure As kidney problems develop

Ophthalmologist or optometrist

Eye

Monitors your eyes for diabetes complications and treats any vision problems

Regularly, at least once a year

Cardiologist

Heart Treats complications related to the heart and circulatory system As complications arise

Neurologist

Brain

Treats brain and nerve disorders, such as strokes and diabetic neuropathy

As complications arise

Podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon

Foot

Helps you monitor your feet and treats any complications, such as foot ulcers

As needed for foot problems. Have your primary care doctor examine your feet once a year.

Other health professionals on a diabetes care team

Other health professionals who may be involved in your diabetes care include:

  • Mental health professional. Many people with chronic diseases suffer from depression. A psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker can help you deal with the mental challenges associated with living with diabetes. Also, one of these specialists can help you learn to manage stress, which can affect your glucose control.
  • Exercise physiologist. Physical activity is an important part of your treatment for diabetes, so you may want to work with an exercise physiologist to develop an appropriate exercise program for your fitness level. Exercise physiologists have experience working with people who have varying levels of strength and aerobic capacity. An exercise physiologist can help you devise strategies for staying with your exercise plan.
  • Registered dietitian. Your diet plays a key role in keeping your blood sugar levels within a target range. A registered dietitian has training in nutrition and experience making meal plans and helping people make changes in their lifestyle. Changing your eating habits may be the hardest thing for you to do to care for your diabetes. A registered dietitian can help you take small steps toward the overall goal of a balanced diet.
  • Nurse educator. A nurse educator helps you understand your diabetes and its treatment. Having diabetes is a lifelong challenge. And as your disease changes and progresses, your nurse educator can provide the information you need to adjust and change with it. He or she may also coordinate your diabetes care.

Related Information

Credits

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

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Classes & Events

Section Links

Health Library