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What Are the Different Types of Primary Care for Diabetes?

By Deneatra Harmon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Primary care for diabetes depends on the person’s overall health condition and whether he or she has type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes. Treatment for type 1 diabetes often involves taking insulin, managing blood sugar, and eating the right foods and exercising. Care for type 2 diabetes involves exercise and weight control as well, in addition to medications. In the case of gestational diabetes, which occurs during pregnancy, primary care focuses on watching the baby, eating a balanced diet, and keeping blood sugar under control.

Healthcare providers must work with type 1 patients to ensure proper diabetes management. Primary care for type 1 diabetes starts with learning how to take insulin, which lowers blood sugar levels when injected into the skin through a syringe or a pump. A diabetes educator or primary care physician usually instructs on how to give insulin injections or use an insulin pump, which may be needed up to four times daily depending on the patient. The person must also understand when during the day to take the insulin, whether it is upon awaking, before meals, or before bedtime. Adjustments may be made according to when the patient eats, exercises, travels, or even catches a cold.

Patients with type 2 diabetes must also devise a healthcare plan with their doctor. Primary care for diabetes type 2 revolves around taking medications, sometimes with or without insulin. Some common treatments for symptoms include meglitinides, biguanides, or alpha-glucosidase inhibitors, all of which are designated for maintaining normal blood sugar levels. Such medications may be taken as an injection or by mouth. The doctor usually prescribes medications only when diet and exercise are not enough to control type 2 blood glucose levels.

Blood sugar management also comes as part of primary care for diabetes, regardless of whether it's type 1, type 2, or gestational diabetes. A glucometer device helps patients to monitor their blood glucose readings throughout the day and night to ensure that they are normal. To check blood sugar, the person uses a lancet, or a small needle, to prick a finger and extract a tiny drop of blood onto a test strip. The strip goes into the glucometer so that it checks the patient’s blood sugar in a matter of seconds. If the blood sugar levels are too high or too low, then the patient and healthcare provider must work together to adjust insulin doses, diet, or both to avoid complications.

Changes to physical activity and diet often play a role in primary care for diabetes. People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes may partake in low-impact exercise, or advanced physical activity with permission from the doctor, to burn calories, improve blood flow to the body, and maintain energy. A balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats regulates blood sugar levels, according to guidelines set by the American Dietetic Association and the American Diabetes Association. For instance, a registered dietitian may recommend eating up to five servings of fresh vegetables, up to four servings of whole fruits, and at least six servings of grains, bread, or pasta. At least two servings of fish and poultry, and two servings of nonfat or low-fat dairy are also recommended.

Some pregnant women develop gestational diabetes because pregnancy hormones sometimes block insulin from working throughout the body, according to the American Diabetes Association. Primary care for diabetes of this type usually involves lifestyle changes rather than medicine or insulin. In this case, the primary care physician closely watches the patient and baby through fetal monitoring, which checks the baby's size, heartbeat, and overall health. Like type 1 and type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes may be controlled through a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, and proteins, as well as complex carbohydrates. While most cases of gestational diabetes often disappear after childbirth, women who experience the condition must be closely examined because of the risk of developing diabetes in the future.

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