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Diabetes education

 

Definition

Information

Diabetes education is a crucial part of a treatment plan. Diabetes education focuses on ways to incorporate disease management principles into your daily life and minimize your dependence on a health care provider.

Diabetes educators have identified three levels of diabetes education:

  1. Basic disease management, including basic "survival skills"
  2. Home management
  3. Lifestyle improvement

Basic disease management includes the knowledge and skills that a person who is newly diagnosed with diabetes must master before leaving the hospital or health care provider's office. These skills include:

  • Learning how to recognize and treat low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Learning how to recognize and treat high blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
  • Learning how to select the right foods and when to eat them (diabetes diet)
  • Learning how to give yourself insulin or take oral hypoglycemic medications
  • Learning how to test and record blood glucose (see blood glucose monitoring) and urine ketones
  • Learning where to buy diabetes supplies and how to store them

Home management skills will help you better control your disease and may prevent complications. These skills include:

  • Learning how to adjust insulin and food intake during exercise
  • Learning how to handle sick days
  • Learning diabetes foot care
  • Learning to watch for long-term complications of diabetes and managing commonly associated conditions (such as high blood pressure)

After you learn the basic principles of diabetes care and establish a routine (which can take several months), you may be interested in learning more about diabetes. Topics may include:

  • Alcohol use and diabetes
  • How to adjust insulin and diet for variations in meal times and changes in routine (such as exercise)
  • How to handle eating out
  • How to modify insulin doses based on blood glucose levels

It's a good idea to review diabetes information every year, because there is constantly new research and improved ways to treat the disease.

A diabetes nurse-educator can serve as an excellent resource for information on diabetes. These diabetes educators should carry the title "Certified Diabetes Educator" (CDE), indicating that they have received board certification. Often, the diabetes educator can help you develop a management plan based on your:

  • Activity level
  • Age
  • Eating patterns
  • Work/school schedule

Some medical centers offer diabetes clinics that specialize in helping patients with diabetes. These clinics often combine the resources of several experts in diabetes management, including a:

  • Certified diabetes educator
  • Diabetes nurse practitioner
  • Physician who specializes in the care of people with diabetes
  • Podiatrist
  • Registered dietitian
  • Social worker

These clinics also are a good source of information for people with diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation offer several pamphlets and brochures about diabetes. For information on educational programs and seminars, contact:

  • Hospitals and medical centers in your area
  • The American Association of Diabetes Educators
  • The American Diabetes Association (ADA)
  • The American Dietetic Association
  • Your local health department

See diabetes support groups for a list of several educational and supportive resources.

References

American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes -- 2009. Diabetes Care. 2009;32:S13-S61.


Review Date: 5/2/2009
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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