You’re in charge of managing your game plan from day to day (and hour to hour) because you’re the one who’s always there — to lace up your walking shoes, pour a bowl of bran cereal, take your medication, or prick your finger. But you’re hardly in this alone. In fact, one of your most important jobs as the manager — and boss — of your care is to line up a team of professionals to help you.
Your first stop is your primary-care physician, who probably diagnosed your diabetes. Your family doctor is a general practitioner (GP), not a diabetes specialist, but just because you have a specific disease doesn’t mean you’ll be bidding your regular doctor good-bye. In fact, GPs handle more than 90 percent of diabetes cases nationwide. That’s partly because the insurance industry funnels most care through GPs. But generalists are also well suited to handle a variety of health problems — valuable when dealing with a disease as multifaceted as diabetes — and they can readily refer you to a range of specialists when you need them. So consider your primary-care physician your right hand, but expect to draw on the talents of a wide range of experts, including the following:
This is a doctor who specializes in the management of diabetes, often with a board certification in endocrinology, the study of hormones and metabolism. A diabetologist will know more than your general practitioner about how to match your treatment to your blood-sugar, eating, and exercise patterns and is more likely to be up on the latest drugs and research. Talk with your GP about whether you need a diabetologist. If your main health problem is diabetes and you’re finding it difficult to control your blood sugar, a diabetologist should probably be calling the shots as your primary-care physician. If, on top of diabetes, you’re dealing with a range of other health problems, such as obesity, high blood pressure, or conditions not directly related to diabetes, you should stick with your GP and call your diabetologist when you have questions or issues your GP can’t address.