Diabetes is a condition that affects how the body produces and uses insulin. Insulin is a hormone that works as a "key" to let glucose (sugar) into the cells of the body to be used as energy. If the body stops producing insulin (Type 1 diabetes) or if the cells can no longer use the insulin produced by the body (Type 2 diabetes), it results in high levels of glucose in the blood. High blood glucose levels cause major health problems that must be addressed by different kinds of doctors.
Diabetes is often identified by routine blood tests ordered by a primary care physician. It can be a mistake to rely on this physician for all diabetes care.
An endocrinologist is a doctor who often treats diabetics. Endocrinologists specialize in diseases affecting the endocrine glands including the pancreas, which produces insulin. Writing for MyDiabetesCentral.com, Dr. Bill Quick suggests seeing an endocrinologist if you have been newly diagnosed with diabetes, if your blood glucose level becomes difficult to manage or if you develop complications from your diabetes such as nerve damage or eye problems. Dr. Quick also recommends that all pediatric diabetes patients be followed by an endocrinologist.
Diabetes can lead to nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) and poor circulation to the lower extremities. This increases the risk of developing a serious infection of your feet and legs. Because neuropathy dulls sensation in the feet, you may not notice a small wound until it becomes a big problem. EPodiatry.com advises diabetics to examine their feet carefully every day and to consult a podiatrist for treatment of corns, callouses or ingrown toenails. Even if no problems appear to be present, it's still wise to consult a podiatrist annually for preventative care.
People with diabetes are prone to vision problems such as glaucoma and retinopathy. Therefore, the American Diabetes Association recommends seeing an optometrist or an ophthalmologist at least once a year to be tested for these conditions.
Doctors make up a vital part of a diabetes treatment team, but they are by no means the only people who can help someone learn to manage the illness. Dietitians, nutritionists and nurse educators may all play a valuable part in helping someone learn to live well with diabetes.