Cardiologist. “Once we identify a problem,” says Dr.
Williams — he does preliminary tests in his office, then refers his patients to a cardiologist, or heart specialist, for a stress test if a problem is indicated. “People with no symptoms at all have had abnormalities on their EKG,” he says, adding that “a significant number have had abnormal stress tests.” Heart disease is the number one killer of people with diabetes.
Nephrologist. A nephrologist, or kidney specialist, might be needed at some point, Dr. Williams says. His patients have an annual test for microalbuminuria, which measures the amount of a specific protein called albumin in the urine. If the level gets too high, it can indicate early kidney damage. Initially, oral medicines can be prescribed to help stop, reverse, or slow down the process; careful blood glucose and blood pressure control can also help.
Neurologist. Dr. Williams’ patients are rarely referred to a neurologist, or doctor specializing in nerve damage. “We can do nerve conduction studies in our office and know what the drugs are for painful neuropathy,” he says.
Wrapping up the interview
To succeed at managing diabetes you must assemble a strong diabetes care team to support you. Creating a partnership with a doctor you can trust and rely on is an essential first step in this process. Doctor appointments can often feel rushed, and you may find yourself walking away feeling like your questions haven’t been answered (or, conversely, feeling overwhelmed with new information). But when you’re diagnosed with diabetes, it’s more important than ever to make sure that you and your doctor are on the same page when it comes to your health care. Once you know which questions to ask, you’ll have to decide whether you’re satisfied with the answers you receive.