Your Diabetes Educator
The 15 minutes you get with your doctor won’t be enough to learn all the ins and outs of dealing with diabetes. That’s where a diabetes educator, usually a nurse with a special interest in diabetes care, comes in. She can show you how to prepare and administer insulin and perform blood and urine tests, explain how to balance your eating and exercise with your blood-sugar readings, and tell you more about how diabetes affects your body. She’s a walking diabetes library and may even offer classes on diabetes, at which you can get more background information and meet other patients. As such, your educator should have the right credentials. Look for the letters CDE — certified diabetes educator — after the name, which indicates that she has had special training in diabetes care and has passed an examination from the National Board for Diabetes Educators.
Controlling calories, counting carbohydrates, finding hidden fats, sorting out sugars, evaluating exchanges — your dietitian can help you with all of this. Meal planning (which involves everything just mentioned and more) is key to your care whether your main goal is to lose weight or to fine-tune your glucose intake. Usually a registered dietitian who may also be a certified diabetes educator, your dietitian will help you find both health and pleasure in what you eat by carefully matching your food to your drug or insulin use, your exercise habits, and your daily schedule. If anything about your treatment changes — or you get bored with your meal plan — your dietitian can help you adjust. Most of your contact with a dietitian will be at the beginning of your care, when you establish your meal plan, but checking in once or twice a year is a good idea.
Your Eye Doctor
Because diabetes is a leading cause of eye disorders and even blindness, you constantly need to guard against vision problems. The only person qualified to diagnose and treat eye damage from diabetes is an ophthalmologist — a medical doctor who specializes in the eyes. Don’t rely on checkups by an optometrist, who is qualified to do vision screening and prescribe glasses or contact lenses but isn’t an expert on eye diseases and can’t do surgery to correct them. Plan to visit your ophthalmologist at least once a year, but don’t wait for your annual exam if you notice changes in your vision or feel pain or pressure in your eyes — possible signs of damage that require immediate attention. When looking for an ophthalmologist, try to find one who specializes in diseases of the retina, especially if you’ve already developed eye complications.