Whether you’re newly diagnosed or not, diabetes management requires staying informed. Those new to the disease need to learn how and when to take medications, such as insulin. If you’re on an insulin regimen, you will learn new skills like drawing insulin and injecting it, testing your blood to determine your blood sugar levels, meal planning, exercising, and the various indications of low and high blood sugar levels.
Education can include possible side effects, or complications, to watch out for. The more a diabetic knows about controlling and anticipating possible complications, the better-equipped s/he is in managing them.
Being diabetic might feel lonely. However, there are over 30 million people living with the disease, some might even look familiar to you.
Here are 10 common questions that every diabetic can ask their doctor for optimum management and best health.
Do diabetics suffer side effects?
The disease itself and also some medications to treat diabetes are associated with side effects. Medications to lower blood sugar, like insulin or Metformin, can bring on light-headedness, dizziness, even severe hypoglycemia, a result of very low glucose levels in the blood. Other side effects your doctor can discuss are complications resulting from artery disease, or arteriosclerosis, and kidney disease. These side effects develop slowly and with few symptoms. That’s why it is good to know about them early on and to ask about new treatments.
Are there specialists who can help me manage the disease?
Your physician might not specialize in diagnosing and treating hormone-related conditions and diseases, but an Endocrinologist does. Therefore, this is an important question to ask. An endocrinologist often works with the support of others who are trained in various aspects of diabetes, such as dieticians, adding further value for patients. It’s a good rule of thumb to visit the endocrinologist once a year, perhaps more often, depending on your needs.
Can I get help with meal planning?
There are many support systems that people with diabetes can turn to for help with meal planning. Your doctor will assist you to learn meal planning and carb counting, and likely even remind you to carry a snack for when you need to deal with hypoglycemia.
The physician might also refer you to a dietician who can guide your meal-planning needs, especially if the doctor is an Endocrinologist, as mentioned. For further education, your doctor will probably recommend you check the CDC or ADA websites, or will provide other readings or websites to visit.
What signs can I expect if my blood sugar levels are too high?
Your physician will tell you that high blood sugar, hyperglycemia, can occur without you noticing it, especially if your blood sugar levels become elevated often. Because hyperglycemia can lead to complications, your doctor will outline these common symptoms:
- frequent urination
- increased thirst and hunger
- blurred vision
- cuts and sores that don’t heal like before
How often should I check my blood sugar levels?
Type-1 diabetics typically check their blood sugar levels 4-10 times daily, and Type-2 diabetics usually check their blood sugar once daily. If you’re beginning a new treatment, or if you are showing signs that your diabetes is uncontrolled, the doctor might think it’s appropriate to check your blood sugar levels more frequently. While this might seem burdensome, the doctor may let you return to your normal regimen after 30 days of normal blood sugar ranges.
How will I know if I reach the goals my doctor sets?
Your physician will probably set goals for weight, exercise, and management of your diabetes. Regarding management, a common goal is to reduce your A1C. This is best done by knowing your baseline A1C, the blood test that reveals an individual’s blood glucose levels over time, typically 3 months.
Doctors typically advise Type-1 and Type-2 patients to keep their A1C level at 6.0. Once the A1C baseline is established, the doctor will set a goal, or, if the A1C is very high, the doctor might set small goals to help you achieve a lower A1C over time.
How can I prepare for my appointments?
Keep a journal or diary with diabetes-related information for when you see your doctor. Call it your ‘healthy lifestyle journal’, ‘care journal’, or simply, a log called ‘notes’. This helps you keep tabs on blood glucose numbers, caloric intake, activities, questions, thoughts, and feelings. If prior to speaking with the doctor, you take some time to review the notes, you’ll find that your visit is more robust. Rather than speaking on general terms, you’ve found a deeper perception of your ups and downs—like the goals you’ve reached since your last visit.
The medication is too expensive. How can I lower the cost?
In order to save money, diabetics might ration their insulin over a longer period of time. This is understandable, but clearly not recommended. The doctor prescribes medication based on your personal needs, and cutting back on medication (or nourishment) is downright unhealthy. Insulin costs in the US continue soaring compared to most developed countries. One way to combat the cost is to buy insulin in Canada. This is possible and safe when you use a Canadian pharmacy that requires a prescription, and the purchase can be made online, with the supplies carefully shipped straight to your U.S. door.
Will I ever be cured?
This is an excellent question to ask the doctor. 100 years since insulin was discovered, we’ve learned that you can manage Type-1 diabetes. However, you can not cure it. Yet. Living with the hope of a cure for diabetes is helpful, and your doctor can discuss promising investigations that offer hope.
Remission, even reversal is possible for Type-2 diabetics, according to a (2019) review by Hallberg et al. Such a breakthrough, though, isn’t currently possible for more than 10% of Type-2 diabetics, depending on genes, the severity of your condition, and the length of time you’ve had diabetes. For Type-2 diabetics, favorable management is possible with physical activity and reduced caloric intake, especially by removing carbohydrates from the diet.
I’m overwhelmed. How can I cope?
Living with diabetes can be overwhelming. Blood sugar fluctuations may cause immediate changes in mood characterized by fatigue, anxiety, and even fuzzy thinking. Called ‘diabetes distress’ these mood changes are similar to mental health problems.
Your doctor will suggest you practice self-care, speak with supportive family members and friends, join a diabetes support group or seek a mental health therapist. Because the American Disabilities Act defines diabetes as a disability, your physician should also remind you of your rights to carry food and medications and allow frequent restroom breaks while at work.