Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Diabetes

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 38 million Americans (more than 11% of the population) have diabetes, and new cases are being diagnosed every day.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with diabetes, here are some suggested questions to ask your doctor to help you take care of your diabetes.

What to Ask Your Doctor About Diabetes

1. Which type of diabetes do I have?

Two forms of diabetes that are most talked about are Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the pancreas fails to manufacture enough (or any) insulin. Sometimes referred to as juvenile diabetes, it often affects children (but can occur at any age) and tends to come on rapidly. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5% to 10% of all cases of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is the most common form, accounting for 90% to 95% of all cases. One of the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is that Type 2 diabetes tends to develop slowly. Some people may not know they have Type 2 diabetes for years before it is diagnosed. The body develops a resistance to insulin, and the pancreas makes more insulin trying to get the cells to respond. Type 2 generally occurs in people aged 45 or older, but it also can occur in people of all ages.

Each type of diabetes is treated differently.

2. When should I check my blood sugar?

As a first step, monitor your blood for your levels of glucose and hemoglobin A1C. Get a lab order from your doctor to get your A1C blood test every two to three months. Monitor the results to try and keep it at 7% or below.

Most newly diagnosed people with diabetes have a lot to learn quickly in relation to managing their disease. Your doctor will set you up with a blood glucose meter or a continuous glucose monitoring device, and you’ll be instructed to check your blood sugars several times daily at home.

Ask you doctor about how often you should check your blood sugar level at home. Make sure you understand what to do if the reading is too low or too high.

[READ: How to Meal Prep Diabetes-Friendly Meals. ]

3. What medications do I need to take?

There are several medications available to patients with diabetes that can help manage blood sugar levels — and cardiovascular disease, if needed. There is no longer a standard protocol for prescribing one certain medication over another for patients diagnosed with Type 2. Prescriptions for medications are individualized based on the medication’s mechanisms of action, side effects, and contraindications.

Patients with Type 1 diabetes need insulin. There are also new technologies, such as inhaled insulin, continuous glucose monitoring devices and insulin pumps, that you may be offered depending on the type and stage of your disease.

Also ask your doctor about when you should take your medications, what to do if you miss a dose and what side effects you might expect.

Monitoring blood sugar, hemoglobin A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol levels will help you and your medical team know that your medications are working well. The goal is to keep your ABC’s — hemoglobin A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol in target range.

4. What lifestyle changes will I need to make?

Because diabetes relates to how your body uses the foods you eat, making some dietary and exercise changes may be a critical component of your treatment regimen.

Your doctor, dietitian or diabetes educator will talk to you about a healthy eating plan. Carbohydrate containing foods should be monitored along with lean protein foods and healthy fats.

Part of a healthy lifestyle for managing blood sugar includes being physically active. Being active can help improve insulin sensitivity, mood and overall health. Talk with your doctor about how much exercise you should get daily and what form of exercise is best for your situation.

The CDC and American Diabetes Association recommend 30 minutes at least five days per week.

People with diabetes are at a higher risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Aim to keep your blood pressure at or below 140/90 mm Hg or at the target your doctor recommends for you.

In addition, high cholesterol can cause high levels of plaque in your blood vessels, which will make it harder for blood to flow through, increasing your risk for heart disease. Speak with your doctor about where your high density lipoprotein (HDL), low density protein (LDL) and triglyceride levels should be.

Lastly, if you are a smoker, connect with a smoking cessation program to help you stop. Smoking puts you at a higher risk for heart disease.

[See: The Best Foods to Prevent and Manage Diabetes.]

5. Who can help me manage this condition?

Your primary care doctor can order blood tests for identifying a diabetes diagnosis. Often, people with Type 2 diabetes will be followed by their primary care physician but also may see an endocrinologist, who is a doctor specializing in conditions like diabetes.

People with Type 1 diabetes should make sure to see an endocrinologist to help with their management of diabetes at least twice per year.

You may also be referred to a diabetes care and education specialist to learn how best to manage the condition. It is helpful to get a doctor’s referral to see a certified diabetes care and education specialist to help you with the day-to-day behavior changes needed for managing diabetes.

There are four critical times when you should meet with your diabetes educator:

— At diagnosis.

— Annually as a check in on your diabetes management.

— Any time a complication arises (physically, emotionally or financially) since all of these can have an effect on your diabetes management.

— Any time there are changes to your care. Changes in your care include changes in your health care team, treatment plan or a living condition change.

6. How will the disease progress?

While diabetes is considered a progressive condition, it can be managed through healthy lifestyle behaviors and possibly medication. At this time, there is not a cure for diabetes but some people with Type 2 diabetes can place their diabetes in remission. Once you are diagnosed with diabetes, it will always be part of your medical history. The main objective for managing diabetes is to avoid complications, which can include heart disease, kidney disease, vision issues, loss of sensation in extremities and reduced capacity to fight infections.

Following a healthy lifestyle that includes a diabetes-friendly diet, being physically active, reducing stress and taking medication as prescribed is the best way to manage the condition.

[SEE: Exercising Safely With Diabetes.]

7. What foods increase my blood sugar the most?

Foods containing carbohydrates (carbs) have the greatest impact on blood sugar and “simple” carbohydrates, including alcohol, sugars, honey, syrups, hard candy, sugary breakfast cereals, nectars and sweetened beverages like soda and juice, have the most rapid impact.

This doesn’t mean that people with diabetes need to avoid food containing carbs. In fact, there are some healthy carbohydrate foods that have a slower rise in blood sugar, which we call complex carbohydrates, and there are some strategies for slowing down the absorption of carbohydrate foods. Generally complex carbohydrates are higher in fiber, and it takes the body longer to break down these foods (slower to raise blood sugar). Note, there are times that a person with diabetes may need to use a simple carbohydrate for bringing up a below target blood sugar of 70 mg/dL or lower.

8. How should I take care of my feet?

According to the CDC, half of all people with diabetes have nerve damage. Often nerve damage shows up in our feet and hands as numbness or tingling. Poor blood flow can also put you at risk for sores on your feet that may not heal well. Because a lack of sensation in your feet can mask the pain of sores or infections, it is recommended that you check your feet daily.

Check your feet daily for sores, redness, corns, calluses, cuts, swelling or blisters. Check the top and bottom of your feet.

Wear comfortable shoes that fit you well. Make sure your shoes aren’t rubbing your feet to cause any abrasions. Make sure you are always protecting your feet with socks, slippers or shoes instead of going barefoot.

Ask your doctor to check your feet at your healthcare check ups. Your doctor will check the blood flow in your feet and be able to take a second look at the health of your feet.

If you notice any changes, contact your doctor or a foot doctor.

9. What problems should I call my provider about?

The goal of diabetes management is to try to keep blood sugar in the target range: 80-130 mg/dL before meals and less than 180 mg/dL two hours after meals. If blood sugar readings are falling below or above that range, it’s worth having a conversation with your medical care team about blood sugar levels. Contact your medical provider if you are experiencing any signs related to complications from diabetes, such as change in vision, cuts or sores not healing, numbness or tingling of hands or feet, itchy skin and/or frequent yeast infections, or elevated blood pressure.

10. What else should I be aware of?

Some patients feel a stigma around their diagnosis, particularly with Type 2 diabetes, which often occurs as a result of obesity and perhaps some unhealthy lifestyle habits. It’s important to develop a support team that can include family members, friends, or your personal medical care providers. There are also certified diabetes care and education specialists that offer mental health support.

Diabetes is a condition that is 24/7 so it can be helpful to speak with someone to help with coping mechanisms. If you have diabetes, you are considered a higher risk patient. Therefore, make sure to keep up to date with any vaccines which will help protect you against preventable health problems. And keep up with your healthcare appointments. People with diabetes should see their doctor twice per year and the podiatrist, dentist and eye doctor, at least once per year.

More from U.S. News

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Questions to Ask an Endocrinologist

10 Potentially Fatal Autoimmune Diseases: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Diabetes originally appeared on

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