Type 2 Diabetes Specialist: What Is An Endocrinologist?

Type 2 diabetes is a complex condition. Although your primary care physician can diagnose you with type 2 diabetes and recommend certain treatment options, some people with type 2 diabetes may need to see a specialist. One such specialist is called an endocrinologist. 

Learn about how an endocrinologist can help with type 2 diabetes, what to expect at your first appointment, and more about managing type 2 diabetes using our guide below. 

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Which specialists treat type 2 diabetes?

There are several healthcare specialists that can help treat type 2 diabetes, though many people think of endocrinologists as diabetes doctors. Endocrinologists specialize in disorders of the endocrine system, the network of hormone-producing glands in your body. 

Endocrinologists are qualified to diagnose and treat conditions like diabetes as well as the following:

  • Thyroid diseases

  • Infertility

  • Metabolic disorders

  • Osteoporosis

  • Some cancers

  • Adrenal and pituitary gland disorders

Other specialist doctors that can help treat type 2 diabetes include internal medicine physicians (also known as general physicians), nephrologists, ophthalmologists, cardiologists, and neurologists.  

There are many other healthcare practitioners and allied health practitioners that specialize in diabetes care, such as: 

  • Credentialed diabetes educators 

  • Clinical nurse practitioners

  • Chronic disease nurses

  • Physician assistants

  • Pharmacists

  • Dietitians

  • Podiatrists

  • Optometrists

  • Psychologists

  • Physiotherapists 

How can an endocrinologist help with type 2 diabetes?

People with type 2 diabetes are usually referred to an endocrinologist if their primary healthcare physician or other healthcare provider feels their expertise is needed.

Some common scenarios in which an endocrinologist might be asked to help include the following:

  • current treatment strategies for diet, activity, and medications aren't working as expecte

  • insulin treatment is being considered, including insulin pump therapy

  • advice about the likelihood of type 2 diabetes remission

  • complications due to type 2 diabetes that require a different approach to treatment

  • another endocrine disorder has developed (e.g., thyroid disease)

  • sexual function is decreasing

  • concerns about fertility or planning a pregnancy

Endocrinologists work very closely with all members of the diabetes healthcare team. Type 2 diabetes is a complex condition that requires input from many different healthcare providers.

What should I do before seeing an endocrinologist?

Before seeing an endocrinologist, it's usually a good idea to see your primary care physician first. This is how most people get an initial diabetes diagnosis, and many can successfully manage their diabetes with their family doctor. If your primary care physician would like expert advice to help improve your diabetes care, they can refer you to an endocrinologist.

Your primary care physician will likely order labs and other tests that your endocrinologist can review before your first session. It's also helpful to monitor your blood glucose levels as closely as possible in the weeks leading up to your appointment, so your endocrinologist can get a better idea of where your diabetes currently stands. 

What to tell your endocrinologist

Your endocrinologist will likely ask questions about your lifestyle habits, how you've been feeling, and whether you have experienced any side effects from medications or treatments. It may feel stressful or embarrassing to talk about such matters, but it's important to be as open and honest as possible with your endocrinologist.

This is the best way for them to get a clear picture of your needs and devise a treatment strategy that will work best for you. 

As always, you should not only tell your endocrinologist about your prescription medications but also any over-the-counter medications or supplements that you take on a regular basis. This can help them make informed decisions about treatment options that won't interact with the drugs and supplements you're already taking. 

What to expect at your endocrinologist appointment

When visiting your endocrinologist for the first time, they will ask you numerous questions about your health history and lifestyle, perform a physical exam, and look over your lab results.

From there, they may provide some education about new strategies for improving type 2 diabetes, treatment options, and other lifestyle modifications to keep your blood glucose levels in check. In some cases, you might leave with a new prescription or treatment to help manage your diabetes.

After your first visit, your endocrinologist may recommend coming back for check-ups at regular intervals to monitor your labs and see whether the treatments they have recommended are working. Follow-up sessions will include questions about how you are feeling, a physical exam, and an opportunity for you to ask questions. 

People with type 2 diabetes often do have questions to ask their endocrinologist, but they can be easily forgotten if not recorded somewhere. Writing down questions on a piece of paper or even on your phone can help you remember what you want to ask during your next appointment. 

Other healthcare professionals that can help with type 2 diabetes

Besides your primary care physician, and an endocrinologist, if needed, there are numerous other healthcare professionals that can help individuals with type 2 diabetes, such as:

Dietitians

Registered dietitians are healthcare professionals that are experts in nutrition, and they can help people with type 2 diabetes understand how to make better choices to manage their condition through diet, exercise, and overall lifestyle habits. 

Many primary care physicians will give newly diagnosed diabetes patients a referral to a registered dietitian. In most cases, you will meet with your dietitian for an initial appointment to give them a better idea of your situation, and then you will return for monthly sessions to discuss goal-setting and explore other interventions that can help you adopt a healthier lifestyle. 

Nephrologists

Diabetes can impact numerous parts of the body simultaneously, including the kidneys. Diabetic kidney disease (DKD) occurs when a person develops kidney disease because of their diabetes due to high blood pressure and blood sugars which can damage kidney tissue. 

Your kidneys carry out many important functions, such as filtering your blood. If your kidneys have been damaged because of your diabetes, or if you had kidney disease even before you had diabetes, your doctor may recommend seeing a nephrologist (kidney doctor).

Your nephrologist can help you create a treatment plan that helps keep your diabetes in check while also preserving your kidney function for as long as possible through lifestyle changes, medications, and other treatments. 

Podiatrists

When blood sugars remain high for long periods of time, it can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves, especially in the hands and feet. Feet are often the first part of the body to experience damage from type 2 diabetes, but seeing a podiatrist early on can help your feet stay in good shape. 

Pharmacists

People with type 2 diabetes can sometimes manage their condition completely with lifestyle changes like eating a balanced diet, getting enough exercise, and reducing stress. Others require the use of prescription medications to keep their blood sugars in check. 

Although your physician or another specialist will prescribe medications, your pharmacist can advise how to take your medications properly, whether the drugs you are prescribed can interact with foods or supplements, and answer any other questions about prescriptions or side effects. 

When to see an endocrinologist

Your primary care physician will likely refer you to an endocrinologist if you are newly diagnosed or if your diabetes treatments are not currently working. You can also try scheduling an appointment with an endocrinologist for diabetes management, especially if you are having problems communicating with your primary care doctor or you need greater expertise. 

Overall, though, it doesn't hurt to see an endocrinologist if you feel that there is more you could be doing to manage your diabetes or if you are finding it difficult to manage your type 2 diabetes. 

The lowdown

It's no secret that living with type 2 diabetes isn't always easy, but people with this condition can still live long, healthy lives with the help of a great healthcare team. If you're currently struggling to manage your type 2 diabetes, it might be time to see an endocrinologist.

Have you considered clinical trials for Type 2 diabetes?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Type 2 diabetes, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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