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Your Diabetes Health Care Team

Are you hearing about health care providers you never knew existed? Who are all these people, what do they do, when do you need them, and why? They're professionals who have been trained to make your life easier, healthier, and less stressful.

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Eye doctor (M.D., D.O., or O.D.)

An ophthalmologist or optometrist will check for diabetes-related eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and retinopathy (damage to the blood vessels inside the eye). See your eye doctor at least once a year for a dilated-eye exam -- and more often if you have any pain or changes in vision. Go to: The American Academy of Ophthalmology or the American Optometric Association for a local eye doctor. geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/find/index.cfm

Dentist (D.D.S. or D.M.D.)

Tell your dentist you have diabetes. A dentist can help prevent and treat gum disease, which can complicate your diabetes and lead to other problems such as heart disease. See your dentist every six months or more frequently if you have red, sore, or bleeding gums. Go to: The American Dental Association for a local dentist. ada.org/ada/findadentist/advancedsearch.aspx

Mental health counselor

Diabetes affects you emotionally and psychologically. You can find individual or group support from a social worker, psychiatrist, psychologist, or marriage counselor. Talk with your PCP (primary care provider) about what type of professional might suit your needs best in this area. Look for a person with whom you are comfortable and who understands specific issues faced by people with diabetes or other health conditions. Go to: The Behavioral Diabetes Institute. behavioraldiabetesinstitute.org

Podiatrist (D.P.M.)

A podiatrist helps with proper care of feet and lower legs, which can be compromised by diabetes. If you have any pain, swelling, numbness, or open sores on your feet or ankles, schedule an appointment with a doctor of podiatric medicine. Go to: The American Podiatric Medical Association for a D.P.M. apma.org

Exercise specialist

Moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, is an important tool in managing blood glucose and maintaining a healthy body weight. If you opt to work with a specialist, look for a physiatrist, who is a doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, or for a person certified by the American College of Sports Medicine. Go to: The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for a local physiatrist. aapmr.org/patients

Before you go to a specialist

Interview potential health care professionals about the ways in which diabetes might affect your care; listen for clear, thoughtful, and thorough answers that demonstrate an understanding of the disease and a concern for you as a person. Throughout treatment, make sure all specialists take your diabetes into account in every decision and send comprehensive reports to your primary care provider. When you visit a new doctor's office or clinic, tell whoever is treating you that you have diabetes (and which type); this includes your pharmacist, who can prevent drug interactions and ensure proper dosage. If you are uncomfortable with your care at any point, trust your instincts and look for other options. To find a qualified specialist in your area, first ask your primary care provider for a referral.

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