Diabetic education


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

Diabetes educators have identified three levels of diabetes education: 1) basic disease management including basic “survival skills,” 2) home management, and 3) improvement of lifestyle.

Basic disease management includes knowledge and skills that a newly diagnosed diabetic must master prior to 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 appropriate foods and when to eat them (see DIABETIC DIET)  
  • learning how to administer insulin or how to take oral hypoglycemic agents  
  • learning how to test and record blood glucose (see blood glucose monitoring) and urine ketones (see home urine ketone monitoring)  
  • learning where to buy diabetic supplies and how to store them

Home management skills will help the diabetic to better control their disease and may prevent development of complications. Home management skills will include:

  • learning how to adjust insulin and/or food intake during exercise (see EXERCISE AND WEIGHT CONTROL FOR DIABETICS)  
  • learning how to handle sick days (see SICK DAYS)  
  • foot care and how to prevent other long-term complications

After the diabetic patient learns the basic principles of diabetes care and a routine has been established (several months), the patient may be interested in learning more about the disease. Education into ways to improve the lifestyle of people with diabetes may be helpful. Principles may include:

  • how to handle eating out  
  • alcohol use and diabetes  
  • how to modify insulin levels based on blood glucose levels  
  • how to adjust insulin and diet for variations in meal times, and changes in routine.

An annual review of diabetes information is strongly recommended. Continually updating personal knowledge of diabetes is advised, because new research and new and improved ways to treat the disease are constantly being developed.

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 age, work/school schedule, activity level, and usual eating patterns.

Some medical centers provide specific Diabetes Clinics that specialize in management of patients with diabetes. These clinics often combine the resources of several experts in diabetes management, including a physician who specializes in the care of people with diabetes, a diabetes nurse practitioner, a certified diabetes educator, a registered dietitian, and a social worker. These clinics also are a good source of information for the diabetic patient.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation offer several pamphlets and brochures about diabetes. For information on educational programs and/or seminars, contact your local chapter of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), American Dietetic Association, American Association of Diabetes Educators, your local health department, or the hospitals and medical centers in your area.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Harutyun Medina, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.