August 16, 2022

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Health for a better future

What to know about type 1 diabetes interprofessional care

Type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM) is a lifelong condition that occurs when the body stops producing sufficient amounts of insulin. As it is a chronic condition, a person living with T1DM will have a diabetes care team of healthcare providers to help them manage their condition and maintain their health.

T1DM occurs when damage to beta cells in the pancreas, likely due to an immune reaction, means the body can no longer produce enough insulin. This hormone helps regulate blood sugar levels — without it, a person’s blood sugar can increase, which can result in various health issues.

To help an individual control the condition, a person living with T1DM will likely have a dedicated team of health experts with varying specialisms. These individual medical professionals work together to provide a holistic care experience and ensure that a person’s T1DM is well-managed.

This article explores the medical professionals that may comprise a person’s interprofessional care team, how a person can prepare for their first visit, and the resources and support available.

Interprofessional care describes how different health professionals work together to help manage a condition or disease and provide people with the highest quality of care. A diabetes care team will involve many different healthcare professionals to provide services and treatment and refer the individual with T1DM to other health experts when necessary.

The benefits of having a care team and health professionals collaborating can include:

  • greater accessibility to healthcare
  • greater support for education
  • a lower wait time to receive appropriate care

An individual’s diabetes interprofessional care team may consist of several professionals and specialists, such as:

Primary care physician

The primary care physician is normally a person’s first point of contact when having health issues. A primary care physician may be the first person to diagnose T1DM. A primary care physician provides a person with routine medical care. This may include performing physical exams, ordering laboratory tests, and prescribing medication.

A primary care physician may also coordinate a person’s T1DM treatment with the other health professionals that are a part of the diabetes care team. The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) recommend that a person with diabetes should visit their doctor every 3 months if they are not meeting their treatment goals or every 6 months if they are.

Endocrinologist

An endocrinologist is a doctor who specializes in medical conditions that relate to hormones. Doctors consider diabetes an endocrine disorder as it impacts the pancreas, which is one of the eight major glands, and how much insulin it produces. With T1DM, a person does not produce enough insulin or any insulin at all. Insulin is necessary to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood.

A doctor will usually refer a person to an endocrinologist.

Ophthalmologist or optometrist

Eye doctors refer to medical experts that specialize in eye care. An ophthalmologist is a medical professional licensed to practice eye medicine and surgery. An optometrist is a person who is trained to examine the eyes and looks for vision defects or abnormalities. An optometrist may refer a person to an ophthalmologist if a person with T1DM requires further treatment or investigation.

Diabetes can affect the health of the eyes. Increased blood sugar levels can damage the blood vessels in the eye and cause eye conditions such as:

As many diabetic eye conditions typically present without any noticeable symptoms, it is vital that people with diabetes attend yearly eye exams.

Podiatrist

A podiatrist is a doctor who specializes in treating the foot, ankle, and other structures of the leg. Diabetes can affect the legs in a few different ways. Diabetes can cause nerve damage, known as diabetic neuropathy, which can cause a person to experience tingling and pain or may lose feeling in their feet.

Diabetes may also increase the risk of a person having an infection in their feet from cuts and sores. If these infections worsen, a person may need a toe, foot, or partial amputation to prevent the infection from spreading.

A person with diabetes should visit their podiatrist at least once a year for a comprehensive foot examination. However, a person should check their feet every day to spot any problems early.

According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), including a podiatrist in a diabetic care team can reduce the risk of having to amputate the lower limb by up to 85%. Additionally, it may lower the risk of hospitalization by 24%.

Learn more about how diabetes can affect the feet.

Pharmacist

A pharmacist is a medical professional that specializes in not only dispensing medication but also providing advice on health issues and medications. This ensures that people use medicines effectively, correctly, and safely.

A pharmacist can provide important information and education on the medications a person with T1DM may have to take.

Dentist

A dentist is a doctor that specializes in the treatment of teeth and gums. Diabetes may affect the mouth and can result in the development of dental problems.

An increase in blood sugar can reduce the amount of saliva that the salivary glands produce in the mouth. This can increase the risk of infections as there is a reduction in saliva flow. The buildup of glucose in the mouth can also provide a suitable environment to let bacteria grow. People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing:

Registered nurse

A registered nurse is a nurse that works in the doctor’s office and helps coordinate a person’s healthcare needs. Registered nurses may spend more time with a person with T1DM and provide support information on how to self-manage diabetes.

Registered dietitian

A registered dietitian is a person that specializes in nutrition and food. They can help a person with T1DM establish a healthy diet and advise on the type of food and drink that will help them manage their blood sugar. Diet and nutrition are very important to help keep blood sugar levels stable and prevent potential diabetes problems.

Learn more about a type 1 diabetes diet.

Certified diabetes care and education specialist

Certified diabetes care and education specialists (CDCES) are qualified professionals that educate people with diabetes and provide support tips on how to self-manage diabetes. They are either registered nurses, registered dietitians, or clinical nurse specialists and may assist in creating a self-management plan to help a person with T1DM navigate their day-to-day life.

CDCES normally have accreditation from organizations, such as the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists, to show they have the necessary training.

Mental health professional

Mental health professionals are doctors or allied professionals specializing in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and other conditions. These professionals include:

People with diabetes are more likely to experience mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress. A person can ask their primary care physician to refer them to a mental health professional if they require additional support.

Learn more about diabetes and mental health.

Fitness professional

A fitness professional is a person who specializes in physical activity and may help a person with T1DM find exercises and activities that are safe and ensure that they maintain a moderate weight. Fitness professionals may include:

  • exercise physiologists
  • personal trainers
  • physical therapists

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/type-1-diabetes-interprofessional-care