Questions to Ask Your Doctor: Diabetes

The members of your healthcare team know what it takes to control diabetes. Now it's your turn to become an expert, too. Here's a list of some of the most important questions you can ask.

Remember that you may not get all your questions answered in a single visit, so you may want to bring up your most pressing questions first. It's also a good idea to establish a good working relationship with your doctor and other health care providers early on, which sets the stage for good communication and getting your questions answered. Tell your doctor that you want to be an informed patient and work as a team with him or her to take the very best care of yourself that you can. This will command your doctor's attention and good will from the onset. Once such a relationship is established, it will be much easier to get your questions answered by all members of your healthcare team. You can start with these questions:

  • How much experience do you have in treating diabetes patients?
  • How often should I test my blood sugar at home?
  • What blood sugar levels should I aim for?
  • What is an A1C test? What do my A1C results mean?

(NOTE: Formerly called hemoglobin A1c, this test shows the percentage of your red blood cells that are attached to sugar molecules. This measure gives you a clear picture of your blood sugar levels over the last two to three months. According to the American Diabetes Association, your doctor should order an A1C test two times each year if your blood sugar is under control and four times each year if it is not. If your reading is 7 percent or above, you may need to step up your treatment.)

  • When should I have my A1C checked next?
  • What are the signs that my blood sugar is too low?
  • What should I do if my blood sugar gets too low?
  • What are the signs that my blood sugar is too high?
  • What should I do if my blood sugar is routinely too high?
  • How much should I be exercising? Should I take any special precautions?
  • Who could help me design a meal plan?
  • What kind of complications does diabetes cause?
  • Do I have any complications caused by diabetes?
  • Which other specialists should I be seeing?
  • How easily can I get a referral to a specialist when needed?
  • At what point should I consider medication to lower my blood sugar?

Questions for your diabetes educator

  • How should I draw blood to check my sugar at home?
  • What type of blood sugar meter is best for me?
  • How do I use my blood sugar meter?
  • What sort of things can affect my blood sugar readings?
  • What can I do immediately to get high blood sugar readings down?
  • Why do exercise and weight affect my blood sugar levels?
  • Do I have to take insulin?
  • Can I control my disease without drugs?
  • What long-term changes can I make in exercise and diet?
  • What should I eat when I'm sick?
  • What kind of infections should I watch out for?
  • If I lose weight and exercise, will my blood sugar levels return to normal?
  • Can my job stress make blood sugar go up?
  • Can diabetes affect a pregnancy?
  • What is prediabetes?

Questions for your optometrist/ophthalmologist

The American Diabetes Association recommends a comprehensive eye exam every year. Here are questions to ask your doctor:

  • Do you have many patients with diabetes?What kind of vision problems do people with diabetes have?
  • Why does high blood sugar affect vision?
  • What symptoms should I be on the watch for? Blurriness? Spots?
  • Do I have any signs of eye trouble?
  • Do you perform eye surgery?
  • Can you write a prescription for glasses?

Questions for your podiatrist

The American Diabetes Association recommends a thorough foot exam once a year. Here's a list of questions:

  • Are you familiar with diabetes-related foot problems?
  • What kind of shoes should I wear?
  • How often should I check my feet?
  • How can I make my shoes more comfortable?
  • What would be a warning sign of foot problems?
  • Can I still exercise if my feet hurt?
  • What type of exercise would be best for someone with nerve damage in his or her feet?
  • Should I cut my own toenails and trim calluses?

Questions for your dietitian

  • How does my diet affect my blood sugar, my cholesterol, and my risk for heart disease?
  • What dietary changes can I make to improve my health?
  • Can you help me draw up a meal plan?
  • Where can I go to get help on how to eat?
  • Are high-carbohydrate and starchy foods forbidden?
  • Are desserts forbidden?
  • What kinds of food should I eat more of? What kinds should I eat less of?
  • Can I drink alcohol? How much?
  • Can you explain "carb exchanges"?
  • Can I eat more protein?

Questions for your health care plan

  • What kind of diabetes supplies will you cover?
  • Which diabetes medications do you cover?
  • Are my physicians covered? What if my doctor makes a referral to a specialist?
  • Is diabetes education or a weight-loss or fitness program covered?
  • Will the plan pay for visits with a dietitian or diabetes educator?
  • Will my plan cover complications from diabetes? Which kinds?
  • Will the plan pay for counseling or a diabetes support group?

References

Joslin Diabetes Center. Getting high quality medical care in a changing healthcare landscape. .

American Diabetes Association. Your health care team.

American Diabetes Association. Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes, 2014. http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/37/Supplement_1/S14.full

Joslin Diabetes Center. Questions to Ask Your Doctor.

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