When you go to a primary care doctor you may see a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopath) or an M.D. (Medical Doctor). An increasing number of primary care physicians are D.O.s rather than an M.D.s.
How does care compare between D.O.s and M.D.s when it comes to diabetes?
- Both D.O.s and M.D.s are licensed physicians. They are trained differently and have a unique perspective on the proper care of patients. The D.O. is classified as an osteopathic physician while an M.D., or medical doctor, is an allopathic physician. This means a D.O. regards the body as a whole, rather than just treating specific symptoms. An M.D. treats specific symptoms, through “Western medicine” approaches, such as surgery or drugs. A D.O. may recommend alternative treatments, such as diet, acupuncture and/or chiropractic care, along with traditional medical approaches. Both classifications can practice medicine and surgery and prescribe medications. The education is similar for both doctors.
- D.O. programs typically focus on primary care, such as a family practitioner, internal medicine, OB-GYN, general surgery and pediatrics, with a focus on people. Additional classes are taken by a D.O. related to the skeletal system and how the body interacts with various diseases. While an M.D. is focused on a medical perspective, a D.O. also gets to know a patient’s unique concerns, such as family and lifestyle, to develop medical treatments. This can be a major benefit for patients with diabetes.
- People with diabetes often need to make lifestyle changes and focus on healthy habits. A D.O. is trained to inquire about a diabetic patient’s lifestyle, which can help them develop strategies for improving their condition. Beyond medication, a D.O. encourages patients to focus on what they are eating, how meals are being prepared and whether they exercise regularly. This additional layer of care can be beneficial for patients with diabetes. Taking a whole approach to diabetes care can help patients maintain good blood sugar control. A D.O. is more into education and teaches patients about the connection between a healthier lifestyle and the prevention or management of health conditions such as diabetes.
- During a visit to a D.O. there is an interview, examination, diagnosis and treatment. Medical history is reviewed as well as home, family and work life. Tests might be ordered based on the exam. A structural exam is done to check your balance, posture and spine. Additionally, the doctor uses fingers to check your feet, hands and back as well as joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. This can help the doctor detect if there are any diabetes-related complications. An assessment is made about your symptoms to create a treatment plan.
- Often a specialized M.D. (cardiologist, nephrologist, neurologist) is part of the treatment plan when there are complications such as neuropathy, heart disease or other diabetes-related issues. These M.D.s have received additional residency training in the specific area that is concerning the patient. Treatments vary, based on the condition of the patient, and may include medication and/or surgery.
- Whether you visit a D.O. or an M.D., it is crucial for people with diabetes to maintain ongoing doctor appointments. People with diabetes should get a complete exam at least once a year and possibly more often, based on the doctor’s recommendations. Choose a doctor that makes you feel comfortable and offer solid treatment options. Check your blood sugar daily using diabetic testing strips and keep levels controlled. Remember to maintain healthy lifestyle habits for optimum well-being.
Both D.O.s and M.D.s are competent, licensed and able to perform many responsibilities; they both can prescribe medication and perform surgery. A D.O. offers a supplemental layer of care by examining your lifestyle habits. The biggest factor is finding a doctor that makes you feel comfortable and healthy.
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