Here’s what parents should know about the doctors and specialists who will be involved in managing their diabetic child’s health care.
Parents may feel a whirlwind of emotions when they find out their child has diabetes. The child, too, may feel shock, denial, anger and sadness. Thankfully, with proper control, diabetes can be managed.
The challenge of diabetes is maintaining 24-hour blood sugar control. This can be hard to do because blood sugar levels normally rise and fall throughout the day. Parents need to play an active role in helping their child make healthy choices to keep blood sugar levels in check.
The best way to start is by putting together a medical team for your child that you trust and feel comfortable with. This team will help your child control his or her blood sugar levels. This helps to avoid complications as the child grows older, such as nerve, eye, kidney and blood vessel damage.
Here are the common players on the medical team. Be sure to check your insurance benefits before you consult a specialist. You may need a referral from your child’s primary care doctor.
Primary care doctor: pediatrician or family doctor
This is who your child will see for regular checkups and when sick. Find a doctor with experience in treating children with diabetes and who takes the time to listen to your concerns and answer questions.This doctor can help you find the other members of your diabetes care team.
This specialist diagnoses, treats and manages hormonal disorders, including diabetes, in children. He or she will work closely with your child’s primary care doctor to keep the condition well controlled.
Diabetes educator, also called nurse educator. This professional will guide you and your child through day-to-day techniques for dealing with diabetes. These include how to take insulin or other medicine, measure blood glucose levels and plan meals, snacks and exercise. A diabetes educator is often a registered dietitian, too.
Mental health professional
A life-changing diagnosis like diabetes can be hard for a child to cope with. It can be a challenge for parents and siblings, too. A counselor, psychologist or social worker can help the whole family learn to deal with the emotional aspects of living with the disease.
Eating the right foods is crucial in your child’s treatment. Your doctor or diabetes educator may refer you to a registered dietitian who can answer questions about your child’s diet and treatment plan. It’s a good idea to see a dietitian at least once a year to address your child’s growth and any changes in treatment.
Eye disease is common with diabetes. Regular checkups with an ophthalmologist or an optometrist are important. The American Diabetes Association guidelines say your child should see an eye doctor three to five years after the first diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, and regularly after that. If your child has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you will need to start seeing an eye doctor soon after the diagnosis has been made.
People with diabetes may be at higher risk for gum disease. When diabetes is poorly controlled, the levels of sugar in the blood are just as high in saliva. This can lead to the growth of bacteria and cause infection. So, make sure your child brushes and flosses each day and gets a dental checkup at least every six months.
Choosing diabetes supplies like glucose meters, syringes and finger-pricking devices can be overwhelming. A pharmacist may be able to offer suggestions on which brands and models will work best for your child.
This doctor specializes in foot care and treatment. Foot problems are common in people with diabetes. Your child’s primary care doctor will refer you to a podiatrist if your child has signs of foot pain, injuries or wounds.