“A question not to be asked is a question not to be answered.”
It is well-recognized that diabetes is a serious, life-long health condition that can affect many bodily systems. It’s also recognized that much of diabetes care must be carried out by the person who has it.
Because caring for diabetes can be complex, it’s no surprise that people with diabetes often see many health-care providers on a routine basis. In fact, many diabetes centers and clinics use a team approach to treat diabetes, ensuring that patients get both the basic care, education, and health screenings they need, as well as specialist care when needed. People who do not get their care at such a center would do well to establish their own diabetes team of providers who can attend to different aspects of their care and are willing to communicate with one another.
A diabetes team starts with a physician, who may be a family practice doctor, who is specially trained in preventive medicine, or a doctor of internal medicine (also called an internist), who has special training in the prevention and treatment of diseases of adults. Some people with diabetes see an endocrinologist as their primary-care doctor; an endocrinologist is an internist with advanced, specialized training in the care of endocrine diseases, of which diabetes is the most common. (Other endocrine problems include thyroid disorders, growth hormone deficiency, osteoporosis, cholesterol disorders, hypertension, and obesity, most of which occur more often in people with diabetes than in the general population.)
Your doctor should be able to refer you to or recommend other professionals for needs such as nutrition education, diabetes education and training, and specialty medical care. Common diabetes team members include a nurse or nurse practitioner, dietitian, and pharmacist. Others may include a physician assistant, exercise physiologist, ophthalmologist, and podiatrist.
At the helm of the diabetes care team is the person who has diabetes. This is the person who is most aware of the effects of diabetes and its treatment on his life, as well as how able he is to carry out the treatment plan recommended by his health-care providers. One of his main responsibilities is communicating this knowledge to his diabetes team members. The other is making sure he understands the recommendations his team members make.
Preparing for a visit
You can get the most out of your medical appointments by preparing for them ahead of time. Particularly if you’re feeling nervous, scared, or rushed, it helps to write down your questions and concerns before you see a doctor or other health-care professional. If you’re seeing a health-care provider for the first time, you should also bring some notes about your medical history to the appointment.
The National Institutes of Health (the Federal agency that conducts and supports medical research) suggests bringing the following to health-care visits:
• A list of your medical concerns, past and present
• A list of any allergies you may have
• All the medicines you take, including any over-the-counter medicines or dietary supplements (herbs or vitamins), and a written list of all of these items
• A description of any symptoms that you have or have been having, including when they started, whether they come and go, and what, if anything, relieves them