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Do I Need to See an Endocrinologist for Type 2 Diabetes? 

Managing T2D

May 23, 2024

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Photography by Victor Torres/Stocksy United

Photography by Victor Torres/Stocksy United

by Beth Ann Mayer


Medically Reviewed by:

Marina Basina, M.D.


by Beth Ann Mayer


Medically Reviewed by:

Marina Basina, M.D.


While your regular doctor can help you manage diabetes, endocrinologists have more specialized training in the condition.

When managing type 2 diabetes, you might think about insulin often. Your primary care physician may be helping you track and manage your diabetes and prescribe insulin to help you maintain your blood sugar levels.

According to the American Association of Clinical Endocrinology (AACE), the glands that are a part of the endocrine system, including the thyroid and pancreas, play an important role in blood sugar management. They can also affect blood pressure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that people with diabetes have a higher risk of hypertension.

Endocrinology is an entire field of medicine that specializes in the endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone management. Because endocrinologists specialize in hormone-related issues, your primary care physician may recommend talking with one.

Meeting with a new doctor may feel overwhelming, but knowing what to expect beforehand can help ease your mind and empower you.

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What is an endocrinologist?

The AACE explains that an endocrinologist is a doctor who focuses on diagnosing endocrine-related conditions and helping people manage them. The endocrine system includes glands and tissues that release hormones like insulin. 

An endocrinologist can help you manage type 2 diabetes by:

  • monitoring the progression of your diabetes by checking bloodwork for your A1C and vitals, including your blood pressure
  • counseling and educating you on how to manage your condition
  • suggesting lifestyle changes that can prevent complications
  • referring you to other specialists, such as a registered dietitian
  • prescribing medications like insulin

Hormones are like messengers, helping the body communicate. Endocrinologists diagnose diabetes when the pancreas doesn’t produce insulin.

A hormonal imbalance caused by unmanaged diabetes or hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) can affect other organs and bodily functions, including the heart, kidneys, and vision. And, if you live with type 2 diabetes, you may have a higher risk of complications involving these. 

Endocrinologists treat the following conditions in addition to diabetes:

  • adrenal conditions like Cushing syndrome and Addison’s disease
  • fertility issues
  • growth disorders
  • high cholesterol
  • obesity
  • osteoporosis
  • thyroid disorders
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When to consider seeing an endocrinologist

If you’re able to maintain your blood sugar levels through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle efforts, you may be able to manage type 2 diabetes through your primary care physician. However, an endocrinologist can still be a valuable resource, helping educate and support you with your condition.

If you need more specialized support, an endocrinologist may be the healthcare professional who helps you manage type 2 diabetes.

There are many reasons why you may want to see an endocrinologist for your condition. You may:

  • have complications such as vision problems or other underlying conditions like high blood pressure that you want to address
  • be looking for more advice on medications or not seeing improvement with your current treatment plan
  • want to learn more about diabetes technology that can help with managing your condition from someone who specializes in endocrine-related conditions
  • notice unexplained changes in your weight on your current treatment plan
  • experience tingling in the hands and feet, otherwise known as neuropathy
  • find it challenging to manage your A1C and blood sugar goals through lifestyle changes, such as diet and physical activity

Your endocrinologist can work with your primary care physician and other specialists. They can refer you to other professionals who may play a role in your diabetes care team and provide individual support. These include:

  • audiologists
  • cardiologists
  • diabetes care and education specialists
  • mental health professionals
  • nephrologists
  • optometrists
  • personal trainers
  • pharmacists
  • podiatrists
  • registered dietitians

What to expect at the endocrinologist

Meeting with a new doctor for the first time can feel like a nerve-racking experience. What will they say? Should I bring anything?

After that first appointment, you’ll likely have follow-ups since managing type 2 diabetes is a lifelong journey. While every person and endocrinology office is different, the following is a general overview of what to expect when working with an endocrinologist. 

First appointment

Much of what happens at your first appointment will be similar to any with a new specialist.

If you’re seeing an endocrinologist for diabetes, your first appointment might include the following:

  • a physical exam, including vitals like blood pressure and heartbeat, and questions about diabetes complications such as sores
  • urine tests and bloodwork
  • a discussion of your personal and family medical history, such as a history of diabetes and heart disease
  • a review of any medications you’re currently taking, such as anti-obesity medications, blood pressure medications, and insulin
  • a mental health screening, since some research suggests diabetes can affect mental health

Your endocrinologist will also offer education on your condition and how it can progress. They can also share some tools to help you manage it, such as lifestyle changes, medications, and referrals to other specialists.

You’ll also have a chance to ask questions. Bringing a pen and paper or typing questions in an app on your phone might help you remember everything you want to ask.

Your endocrinologist will also discuss a treatment plan and the need for follow-up appointments to assess your progress.

Follow-up appointments

Follow-up appointments will likely include:

  • physical exams to check for any complications, such as sores
  • urine tests and bloodwork to measure the progression of diabetes
  • a discussion of any changes to the treatment plan, such as dosing or medications
  • a chat about referrals to other professionals

Once again, you’ll have a chance to ask questions and express any concerns.

The number of visits can vary. However, the CDC recommends checking your A1C at least twice a year. If your endocrinologist is mainly responsible for your diabetes care, you’ll probably see them at least two times a year so they can order and review your bloodwork and adjust your treatment plan as needed.

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While you might be able to manage your type 2 diabetes with your primary care physician, they may recommend seeing an endocrinologist.

An endocrinologist specializes in treating conditions affecting the endocrine system responsible for hormone release. An endocrinologist will likely track vitals and critical numbers like your A1C.

They can help you feel more confident, educated, and empowered about your condition by advising on managing it, prescribing medications, and sharing potential lifestyle changes.

At your first appointment, your endocrinologist will discuss your complete medical history, order bloodwork, take a urine sample, and discuss a path forward. Follow-up appointments will track how you’re doing and allow the endocrinologist to recommend any tweaks to the plan.

The goal is to help you live your most fulfilling life with diabetes.

Medically reviewed on May 23, 2024

8 Sources

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About the author

Beth Ann Mayer

Beth Ann Mayer is a New York-based freelance writer and content strategist who specializes in health and parenting writing. Her work has been published in Parents, Shape, and Inside Lacrosse. She is a co-founder of digital content agency Lemonseed Creative and is a graduate of Syracuse University. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

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