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Why Do I Need to See a Diabetes Educator?

Get the Facts You Need to Manage Your Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects more than 23 million people in the United States. If managed well, people with diabetes can live normal, healthy lives. However, the many devastating effects of uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes are fairly well known: Diabetes, which increases a person's chances of heart attack or stroke by 200% to 400%, respectively, is the seventh leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure and lower-limb amputation. But with proper management and control through daily food, fitness, medication and lifestyle choices, people with diabetes can reduce their risk of diabetes related complications.

That said, diabetes is largely a "self-care" disease, which means that most of the time, you are in charge of many day-to-day decisions that affect your condition. This responsibility puts an individual with diabetes in the driver’s seat of their personal care team—and that's a lot of pressure!

So what's the most important tool you need to successfully manage diabetes? Knowledge.

There is a lot of information available about diabetes. In the information age, there is certainly no shortage of diabetes related books, cookbooks, websites, and magazines. Unfortunately, information about diabetes is not always credible and some of the information out there is just flat-out incorrect or bad advice. How do you decide whether the information you read or hear about diabetes is safe and reliable? Fortunately, you don’t have to do this on your own. A diabetes educator can help!

A Certified Diabetes Educator is a qualified professional—typically, a registered nurse, registered dietitian, or a pharmacist— that provides diabetes self-management education (DSME) or diabetes self-management training (DSMT). The American Association of Diabetes Educators defines DSMT as a collaborative process through which people with or at risk for diabetes gain the knowledge and skills needed to change behavior and successfully self-manage diabetes and its related conditions. DSMT typically focuses on the following seven behaviors—sometimes referred to as the AADE7 TM Self-Care Behaviors:
  1. Healthy eating
  2. Being active
  3. Monitoring
  4. Taking medication
  5. Problem solving
  6. Healthy coping
  7. Reducing risks
Your diabetes educator will help you understand what is going on inside your body. You'll learn the best methods of daily self-care and how everyday decisions regarding physical activity, meal planning, testing your blood sugar, taking your medication, and checking your feet all impact your condition—and your risk for the complications. Finally, a diabetes educator can explain the basic diabetes care you should be receiving from their doctor such as A1C testing, foot exams, blood pressure, and cholesterol checks.

While there is typically a fee charged to receive diabetes education from a Certified Diabetes Educator, it is important to note that many health insurance plans, including Medicare, cover this cost. Contact your insurance carrier to make certain that your plan covers diabetes self-management education. If you are uninsured, you may be able to find free or reduced cost programs through your local health department or hospital. Even if you have to pay some money out of pocket, it will be a very important investment in your health!

While SparkPeople offers many free resources and tools for people with diabetes (created by registered dietitians and certified diabetes educators), these are no substitute for the personalized education and detailed knowledge you'll gain by visiting a diabetes educator near you. Because of the positive impact it can have on diabetes care and diabetes outcomes, it is highly recommended that all individuals with diabetes meet with a diabetes educator. Talk with your doctor or visit to find a diabetes educator in your area.


Diabetes Education Fact Sheet from the American Association of Diabetes Educators (

Diabetes Statistics from the American Diabetes Association (

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Member Comments

  • good info, thanks
    Im not diabetic but I enjoyed the info...
  • The meeting I had was basically how to test my blood. I really got nothing out of it!
    i attended a class at our local hospital. It was important that the class treated my as a whole person and not just a disease.
  • thank you my spouse is a diabetic
    I found out that knowledge is power over my disease.
  • Thank you, Going to read more, there is so much to learn. Knowledge is freedom.
    I will get my life back. Another journey. ??
  • My provider offers classes, not individual consultation. The teacher was good--she has diabetes--but she could not offer individualized information or advice. As I am vegan, the suggested meal plans just didn't work for me. (Vegan protein comes with carbs; nonvegan protein comes with fat; that makes the whole plate look different.)
    I figured it out myself, eventually. Finally just went all the way off sugar. No concentrated sugar, including dried fruits. Limited fresh fruits. Plus five servings of vegetables per day. I also added one egg a day, from pastured hens. I've lost weight, and my A1C is almost normal.
  • I did it their way and gained 100 pounds in a decade. Now I am doing it my way, I researched the heck out of this disease with all the newer information out there and found what works for me. In two weeks my sugars are normal and I am off insulin. Feel the best I ever have and lost weight at the same time. Never feel bad, just spend an hour a day to learn more about what your body needs. It will thank you. (I took biology courses at the college, listened to friends who had success, and watched hours of videos from whole natural doctors, plus hours of medical reports)
    The diabetes educators I've met have handed out the same ineffective SAD that has kept my disease progressing, despite my best efforts. None of them I've met have had diabetes or even been overweight, and they only know what they've read in books. They have no idea what it feels like to follow instructions to the letter and have the disease get worse, and they have no idea what to suggest when their initial advice doesn't work.

    It wasn't until I found keto, seven years after being diagnosed, that I've been able to control and even reverse the track of diabetes.

    I'm not sure why certified nutritionists are recommended for diabetics, when their information and advice is not only wrong, but counter-productiv
  • I went to one & she didn't do a thing for me. She didn't tell me anything about my diet or exercise. She put me on a cholesterol medicine in the morning and it caused my legs to hurt so bad. So I went to my family Dr. and he put me on pravastatin & it never hurt at all. He told me to take it in the evening.
  • My endocrinologist requires all of her patients to take classes to be her patient. The classes were spread over several weeks and lasted half a day. Well worth the time spent, and luckily my insurance covered most of it! There is a lot to know about diabetes; I learn new things all the time.
  • I had a great dietitian at the local ShopRite. They offered that free service. After a year or two, she left to be a diabetes educator at a hospital, her replacement lasted only 2 weeks, and they never hired anybody else. Tanya, come back!
  • I love my diabetes educator but I refuse to go back to the nutritionist they sent me to. I am a little less then 100 lbs over weight and she tried to tell me that I can eat 60 carbs per meal. That is nuts.
  • Meeting with a good Educator can make all the difference. A good Educator will be your coach and cheerleader. I was able to manage my diabetes in just a few months with only diet and exercise by following her advise. My A1c was 9.9 when diagnosed 51/2 years ago. My latest A1c 5.3! It can be done but it takes work and commitment.

About The Author

Amy L. Poetker Amy L. Poetker
Amy Poetker is a licensed and registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's degree in dietetics. Amy, who has spent most of her career working in diabetes education, is dedicated to the treatment of that disease and the prevention of related complications. See all of Amy's articles.