Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.
When you are first diagnosed with diabetes, it's not really clear on what kind of doctor you should be seeing. Insurance companies often supply you with a laundry list of doctors covered in your network, but where do you go from there?
Is a family doctor or primary care physician (PCP) sufficient to help with this complicated condition? That really depends on whether the “general doctor” in question is up to date on the latest diabetes treatments and methods—like newer drugs on the market or step-by-step approaches to improving your blood glucose control (instead of throwing nine goals at you all at once and expecting miracles).
For these reasons, most people with diabetes are better off seeing an endocrinologist—a doctor specializing in endocrine gland disorders, including the pancreas, the cause of diabetes. A diabetologist is even more specialized in that they are an endocrinologist who focuses solely on diabetes. (Note that these specialists are often hard to find except at very large clinics and universities.)
Why endocrinologists are your best bet
1. It is their job to be up to date on diabetes treatments. They are regularly visited by drug company representatives who educate them and provide samples.
2. They see lots of diabetes patients, so have a frame of reference for what you are experiencing and what treatments might fit you best.
3. They often work closely with Certified Diabetes Educators (CDEs), insulin pump educators, or nutritionists—sometimes in-house right in their practice—so you’ll have access to all those resources as well.
4. They’re very aware of—and usually proactive about—ordering the basic lab tests that every person with diabetes should have and monitor on a regular basis: A1c, blood pressure, cholesterol tests, microalbumin test for kidney damage, and annual eye exam. (See this link for my guidebook on those tests.)