Finding the Right Diabetes Doctor

Meagan Esler

| May 25, 2012

I once had a doctor ask me what I'd do if someone offered me a drink or a cigarette. I was a teenager, recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and it was the first time that I had seen her. When I told her that I didn't drink or smoke, she kept hounding me with questions as if I were lying. I grew tired of telling her the same thing over and over. She just didn't seem to hear what I was saying. Maybe she was just trying to scare me from starting, but I left feeling annoyed and convinced that I needed to find a different doctor.

My next doctor was extremely nice. While that sounds great, it actually posed a problem for me. When I arrived for my once-yearly visit, she'd just say "Hmm, it's been a year since you had blood work done." It was obvious from my towering A1C that I had poor control, but because I didn't have insurance, I hesitated to ask for more help. I'd leave her office with another year's worth of prescription refills, and we'd repeat the identical visit a year later, never getting anywhere with regard to gaining better control of my diabetes. I just wasn't getting the help I needed.

At this point I was years into my diabetes diagnosis, and my faith in doctors was waning. I'd seen a few other doctors for check-ups and illnesses over the years, but none of them offered any real help with my diabetes. My out-of-control diabetes was like the elephant in the room: No one, including me, wanted to talk about it. I knew that I needed someone to help me fix myself. I knew that I couldn't handle diabetes all alone. I felt bad about my poor control and often wondered if there were a doctor out there who could help me.

Finally, after attempting to get an appointment with my regular doctor without success, I happened to stumble upon an amazing doctor. He listened and seemed to genuinely care as he ordered me to go for blood work immediately. He left the room to ask questions of a diabetes educator when he didn't have the answer to a question. He insisted that I see a new diabetes educator because mine had retired, and he made sure that I visited the nutritionist for a refresher on carb-counting. When I complied, I learned that I was making some huge mistakes with my diabetes. For one thing, my insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio wasn't working for me. I was also using older types of insulin.

Once I was armed with a new medical team, modern insulin, a better dosing scale, and tons of new information, my A1C improved substantially. I wish now that I'd found the right doctor when I was younger. Finding a great doctor changed my life for the better, and I believe that it literally added years to my life. I'm still a work-in-progress, but I have a doctor whom I trust and can ask for help. No one can handle diabetes successfully alone, and no one should have to.


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Posted by Anonymous on 25 May 2012

The right doctor does make a tremendous difference. I have seen my Endo every 4 months for the past 16 years. I know that I would get lazy with my care if he didn't require these visits. I have a young cousin that lives in a different area and probably doesn't even know what a A1C is and only goes when there is a problem or she needs refills. She is still on daily injects of long activing insulin and I rarily see her check her blood sugar. Let's face it without the doctor encouraging, scolding, tweeking treatment we only do what we have to do. It can be a real pain to see the doctor this often but with his specialized knowledge I hope I can keep complications at bay. Let's face it - being diabetic is a pain - but the right doctor is out there to help you.

Posted by Anonymous on 29 May 2012

I am a Registered Nurse with Type 2 diabetes. I hear horror stories from patients about their experience with their doctor. Please work to find the "right doctor" for you. No one looks in the phone book to find a spouse to spend your life with. Why do that with a Doctor. Talk to your friends, find out who they see and why. Don't be afraid to see several doctors before you decide on one. I talked with my family doctor and he recommended a specialist who treats my diabetes only. My internist is also a diabetic and wears an insulin pump. He is great!! Please search for the right doctor for you. It really is an important relationship. Jane

Posted by Anonymous on 29 May 2012

I went totally off dairy and gluten and feel much better. I, also, had some well meaning doctors that I needed to move on from and begin to search.

Posted by Jerry Smith on 29 May 2012

The problem is that endocrinology is not a financially lucrative specialty. It is very difficult to find any endocrinologist, much less a good one. I have been a patient of the same endo for 24 years. Unfortunately, he is getting older and could retire at any time. I also have an excellent ANP/CDE who is very analytical and knowledgeable about insulin pumps and CGM. I can probably get by without an endo as long my CDE continues to see me. Many primary care doctors know very little about Type 1 diabetes and modern technology. When I was hospitalized recently, I was left on my own to manage my pump, BG testing, and insulin dosage. Fortunately I was discharged before I had to change my infusion set. If I relied on the hospital staff, everything would have been based on their 'sliding scale' where the insulin dose is based on your last BG with no consideration for food intake.

Posted by Anonymous on 30 May 2012

While I have a Dr. that is helping now, I find that in my 5 yrs as type II, there is no handy list or ratings (as for products) of available Doctors in diabetes. There are very few who actually advertise as specializing in diabetes. It's one of those Big mysteries. There ought to be a designation for diabetes to help us look for the best care.

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