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Living Well with Diabetes Starts with Primary Care


More and more patients in their late 30s and early 40s are developing diabetes, partly because of increasing obesity rates. Over 37 million adults have diabetes, and don’t know they have the disease. Dr. Sarah Siddiqui is a primary care doctor who uses her expertise in diabetes to help her patients. She believes prevention and management of diabetes are key in helping patients lead fulfilling lives.

“It is difficult to mitigate pain and progression when diseases are more advanced,” said Dr. Siddiqui. “But no matter how long my patient has had the disease, I work with them to find the best ways for us to manage it and allow them to live their best life.”

Managing Your Diagnosis

It’s easier to manage diabetes when we catch it early in a primary care visit. That is why I always try to communicate to my patients the importance of an annual wellness exam. In fact, the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that diabetics who went to their annual wellness exams were 36% less likely to require amputation because of complications.

During your annual wellness visit, we test to make sure you are not on the path to developing diabetes. We also provide advice and education on lifestyle changes that are important to avoiding getting diabetes altogether or you have diabetes, to help symptoms from getting worse. If the diagnosis happens in the emergency room, patients have likely already suffered symptoms that brought them there, like severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting, which we might have been able to prevent with the right early care.

Common Misconceptions About Diabetes

Many patients think that being predisposed to diabetes means they are guaranteed to develop the disease. Although genetics plays a role, there are steps patients can take to stay healthy through prevention even with a family history of diabetes.

  • Create a sustainable diet that you can stick to.
  • Practice balance in your everyday life.
  • Make regular appointments to visit your healthcare provider.

It is important to take a multidisciplinary approach when managing diabetes. This means addressing any cardiovascular and neurologic concerns as well as holding patients accountable for their annual eye and foot exams. Many of my diabetic patients initially assume endocrinologists are an inevitable part of their lives, but with proper attention in primary care, this does not have to be the case.

Making a Difference in the Lives of Patients

A patient came to me after a series of struggles trying to manage her diabetes. She took medications for her condition but wanted to make a change to her lifestyle. She was tired of going to other doctors and specialists without getting results. It might sound simple, but sometimes all it takes to get past a plateau in achieving health care goals is to dig a little deeper. That means closely reviewing the patient’s medication history and seeing what worked for them previously and what approaches they have not yet tried.

Since obesity is a major driver of diabetes, weight loss is critical for many patients. By working together with this patient not just on her medications, but also on the dietary and lifestyle components of her health, we were able to help her lose 20 pounds in a few weeks. It changed her life. She came back to me in tears and thanked me for helping her get off her diabetes medications.

My dad and I share a philosophy as primary care doctors: When you work with patients, you work together with them. We don’t say, “Here’s your medicine, take it, see you in three months.” Instead, we believe health care is about working as a team. That means meeting patients where they are, updating each other on how things are going with medications, exercise, and diet, and then figuring out what barriers stand in the way of their health care goals.


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