Diabetes: Why See a Specialist?

By

Allie Lemco Toren

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PHYSICIAN CONTRIBUTOR

3 Things I Wish My Patients Knew About Diabetes

Dr. Shikha Chacko has three big things she tells her patients about managing diabetes. 
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Diabetes is a complex disease that affects everyone differently. That’s why all diabetes patients should follow unique treatment plans tailored to their specific needs. But your primary care doctor may not have all the information you need to manage your diabetes successfully.

That’s where specialists come in: a diabetes specialist, called an endocrinologist, has the right skills and insight to help you stay in control of your diabetes. Here’s why:

1. An endocrinologist completes extensive training in treating diabetes and is an expert in diabetes care.

An endocrinologist is a physician who specializes in treating diseases related to the endocrine system, which revolves around our hormones. Hormones are involved in all aspects of human health, so endocrinologists must train extensively to master this area of study. An endocrinologist will have expertise in treating diabetes, thyroid disorders, metabolic diseases, and other conditions related to the endocrine system.

All doctors complete a training program called a residency after they finish medical school. But endocrinologists receive extensive training beyond that. Endocrinologists spend several additional years in a fellowship, in which they train under experienced endocrinologists and focus on patients with diabetes and issues affecting the endocrine system.  At the end of this period, specialists can take an exam to become a board-certified endocrinologist.  Look for a doctor who is board certified in endocrinology, and you’ll know you’re seeing an expert. 

2. An endocrinologist never stops learning about diabetes.

To maintain their board certification, endocrinologists must keep up with new developments in their field. They must complete a set number of required hours of continuing education and renew their medical license every few years, depending on the state in which they practice and other factors. By following these requirements, board-certified endocrinologists stay on top of new treatments and discoveries about the mechanisms involved in diabetes, so they can then provide their patients with insightful, informed, and up-to-date treatment plans.

3. An endocrinologist has extensive experience in treating diabetes.

Endocrinologists see a higher volume and concentration of patients with diabetes, and thus are more experienced in treating the condition successfully. Because they see lots of patients with diabetes, they can add real-world knowledge of the disease to their academic and clinical training. They’re able to assess how well patients respond to certain treatments, have a deeper understanding of how diabetes progresses over time, share insight about effectively implementing lifestyle changes, and recognize symptoms that a general practitioner may miss, among other skills.

4. An endocrinologist is a team player.

Endocrinologists work with teams of other health care providers who treat patients with diabetes and can connect patients with certified diabetes educators, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, therapists, and other experts in diabetes management. Working with a team can help patients address all aspects of the disease and ensure success.

5. It’s easy to find the right endocrinologist for you.

There are thousands of endocrinologists in the United States, so how do you know which is the right doctor for you? By searching on Healthgrades.com, you can identify the best endocrinologist to help you manage your diabetes successfully.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 7, 2016

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