Diabetes - what to ask your doctor - type 2
What to ask your provider about diabetes - type 2
Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease that causes a high level of sugar (glucose) in your blood. It can damage your organs. It can also lead to a heart attack or stroke and cause many other health problems. You can do many things to control your symptoms, prevent damage due to diabetes, and make your life better.
Below are questions you may want to ask your health care provider to help you take care of your diabetes.
Over the past several years, our collective diets have grown unhealthier, and our waistlines have expanded as a result. Doing so, we're putting ourselves at risk for a number of diseases, including type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is serious stuff, if it's not treated, it can lead to some pretty dangerous complications, including nerve and kidney damage. The good news is you can often avoid type 2 diabetes and its complications. You need sugar, or glucose, to keep your body running. Normally when you eat, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin, which moves the sugar from food out of your blood and into your cells, where it can either be used for energy, or stored. But if you have type 2 diabetes, this system doesn't work as well as it should, in part because your cells have a harder time responding to insulin. As a result, sugar builds up in your blood. Why is that a problem? Well, that excess sugar can damage organs like your eyes and kidneys, and it can lead to complications like nerve damage and heart disease. Diabetes complications could leave you blind, lead to amputation of your toes or feet, and maybe even kill you. You can help prevent diabetes complications by keeping good control over your blood sugar, but first you need to know that you have type 2 diabetes. Sometimes it can be hard to tell because you may not have any symptoms at first. Being very thirsty, tired, or having to go to the bathroom a lot may be pretty good clues that you might have developed diabetes. Blurry vision might also be a clue. Your doctor can confirm it with a blood test. Once you know that you have diabetes, it's your job to keep it under control. You'll need to check your blood sugar at home and talk to your doctor about how to lower it with diet, exercise, and possibly medicine. To avoid serious complications, you'll need to see not just one doctor, but a team of health care professionals. That includes a podiatrist to check your feet, an ophthalmologist to check your eyes, and a dentist for cleanings and exams. Because type 2 diabetes increases your risk for heart disease, you'll also need to see your primary care doctor regularly to have your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides checked, and to make sure your kidneys are working as well as they should. Like any other disease, it's better to avoid getting type 2 diabetes then to have to treat it. If you're at risk because you're overweight or over age 45, ask your doctor for a blood sugar test at your next check-up. If you have already developed diabetes, you can help avoid complications by staying on top of your health, checking your blood sugars, eating a healthy diet, exercising, and seeing all of your specialists on schedule. Make your doctor a partner in your care. Call right away if you have any problems, like numbness or tingling in your legs or feet, blurry vision, extreme thirst, weakness, or fatigue.
Ask your provider to check the nerves, skin, and pulses in your feet. Also ask these questions:
- How often should I check my feet? What should I do when I check them? What problems should I call my provider about?
- Who should trim my toenails? Is it OK if I trim them?
- How should I take care of my feet every day? What type of shoes and socks should I wear?
- Should I see a foot doctor (podiatrist)?
Ask your provider about getting exercise:
- Before I start, do I need to have my heart checked? My eyes? My feet?
- What type of exercise program should I do? What type of activities should I avoid?
- When should I check my blood sugar when I exercise? What should I bring with me when I exercise? Should I eat before or during exercise? Do I need to adjust my medicines when I exercise?
When should I next have an eye doctor check my eyes? What eye problems should I call my doctor about?
Ask your provider about meeting with a dietitian. Questions for the dietitian may include:
- What foods increase my blood sugar the most?
- What foods can help me with my weight loss goals?
Ask your provider about your diabetes medicines:
- When should I take them?
- What should I do if I miss a dose?
- Are there any side effects?
How often should I check my blood sugar level at home? Should I do it at different times of the day? What is too low? What is too high? What should I do if my blood sugar is too low or too high?
Should I get a medical alert bracelet or necklace? Should I have glucagon at home?
Ask your provider about symptoms that you are having if they have not been discussed. Tell your provider about blurred vision, skin changes, depression, reactions at injection sites, sexual dysfunction, tooth pain, muscle pain, or nausea.
Ask your provider about other tests you may need, such as cholesterol, A1C, and a urine test to check for kidney problems.
Ask your provider about vaccinations you should have like the flu shot, hepatitis B, or pneumonia vaccines.
How should I take care of my diabetes when I travel?
Ask your provider how you should take care of your diabetes when you are sick:
- What should I eat or drink?
- How should I take my diabetes medicines?
- How often should I check my blood sugar?
- When should I call the provider?
American Diabetes Association. 3. Comprehensive medical evaluation and assessment of comorbidities: standards of medical care in diabetes-2018. Diabetes Care. 2018;41(Suppl 1):S28-S37. PMID: 29222374
Dungan KM. Management of type 2 diabetes mellitus. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 48.
Last reviewed on: 7/12/2018
Reviewed by: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.