If you've recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be wondering whether you'll need to move from seeing a family physician to a specialist who can help you manage your blood sugar and look for the early warning signs of diabetic complications. In most cases, you'll be able to manage diabetes with nothing more than some time-tested advice from your physician (and a bit more careful monitoring of your diet), but there are always exceptions. Learn more about how your primary care physician can help you manage your Type I or II diabetes and when you may need to seek advice from an endocrinologist.
How Your Family Doctor Can Help You Manage Diabetes
Type I diabetes is often diagnosed in childhood or teen years and results from the pancreas's inability to produce insulin. Those with Type I diabetes will generally need to take insulin regularly to maintain their blood sugar in a stable range.
Type II diabetes is more often diagnosed in adulthood (and includes gestational diabetes during pregnancy). Those with Type II diabetes may be able to avoid daily insulin injections by modifying their diet and lifestyle to keep their blood sugar steady.
In both cases, a primary care physician can help get you started on your diabetes journey. Diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions out there, and many family doctors treat dozens or even hundreds of patients with diabetes. As long as you aren't suffering from complications or having difficulty managing your diabetes, there should be no need to seek out a specialist. However, your primary care physician may need to enlist a diabetes team of nurses, nutritionists, pharmacists, podiatrists, and other support specialists who can give you customized advice for your situation.
When to See an Endocrinologist
There are a few situations in which it's a good idea to get a referral to an endocrinologist or another specialist.
- You're interested in being part of a study.
- You're having complications with your diabetes or haven't yet been able to get your blood sugar under control even with diet and medication.
- You are currently taking more than three insulin injections a day or are required to use a pump. These complex treatment regimens can be tough to manage, and an endocrinologist may be able to provide you with a less-onerous routine.
However, unless your situation falls into one of these categories, your primary care physician should be able to help you manage your diagnosis and minimize its impact on your life.