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9 Questions for People With Diabetes

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on February 10, 2016
From the WebMD Archives

Recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes? You know your medical team can help you stay healthy. But office visits can go by fast, and there may be several months between appointments. To make the most of face-to-face time with your doctor, you’ll want to be ready to answer their questions -- and go in with a few of your own.

The more you know, the higher the odds you’ll manage your disease well, says Rifka Schulman, MD, director of inpatient diabetes at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY. These questions will help you prepare for your next checkup.  

Questions the Doctor May Ask You

1. How has your blood sugar been?

“It’s the first thing I ask patients with type 2 diabetes,” says Wesley Mills, MD, at St. Vincent’s Primary Care in Jacksonville, FL.

At most visits, your doctor will order a blood test to measure your A1c level. It checks for your average blood glucose (a.k.a. blood sugar) over the past 2 to 3 months. The test helps your doctor find out if your treatment plan is working.

But the results of your at-home tests are important, too. “They offer a bigger picture of how you’re doing and help you and your doctor understand how diet and lifestyle factors like stress affect your blood sugar,” Mills says.

Your doctor will probably tell you to take readings with a glucose meter and test strips two or more times a day, especially if you take insulin. If you manage your diabetes with other medications and diet and exercise, they may ask you to check two to three times a week, plus anytime you don’t feel well. Write your results in a log or notebook, and share it with your doctor.

2. Have you been exercising and eating healthfully? 

Whether you take diabetes medicine or not, a balanced diet and regular activity can help you manage your disease. But don’t worry: You don’t have to be perfect. “Even small changes are important,” says Marc Jaffe, MD, an endocrinologist at Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in San Francisco.

“If you should lose 30 pounds but can only manage 10, that still makes a difference. When your doctor asks what you’re doing, tell him -- then set reasonable goals together,” Jaffe says. 

3. May I see your feet?

“In addition to a standard physical exam, my doctor checks my feet at every visit,” says Josh Berkman, a 43-year-old New Jersey resident. That’s because diabetes can affect your circulation and cause nerve damage. Wounds or other changes to your feet may show signs of trouble.

4. Have you been smoking?

Whether you’ve been lighting up for years or always check “nonsmoker” on medical forms, your doctor still might ask. “If you have diabetes, smoking puts you at an especially high risk for heart and kidney disease, as well as other problems,” Mills says.

If you do smoke but aren’t ready to quit, “Say so,” Jaffe says. “Your doctor can help you find strategies to at least reduce your tobacco use.” 

5. How’s your mood these days?

Stressed, anxious, or depressed? Tell your doctor. “These issues are extremely common in people with diabetes. They can even be related to the disease,” Jaffe says. Mental health problems can make it harder to manage your diabetes. They can also affect your blood sugar and immune system. Your doctor can show you ways to feel better and provide treatments that help.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

1. Is my weight a concern?

Being overweight makes it harder for your body to manage blood sugar and use insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar. If you have pounds to shed, you and your doctor should talk about the best way to get started.

But weight loss can also spell trouble, especially if it happens quickly. “At one point, I lost a lot of weight pretty fast. My doctor explained that wasn’t healthy,” Berkman says. “Now I know that if I lose 5 pounds or more in a week, something may be wrong and I need to see my medical team right away.”

2. How’s my heart?

Diabetes puts you at a higher risk for heart disease. Your doctor should talk to you about your blood pressure and other things, like cholesterol and triglyceride levels, at every visit. If they don’t bring it up, ask. Find out what you can do to stay healthy.

“My doctor explained to me that I needed to produce more good HDL cholesterol, and that requires exercise. So I started being more active,” Berkman says.

3. Should I make changes to my diet?

Your doctor can help you figure out a healthy eating plan or connect you with a dietitian who specializes in diabetes. Keep in mind that everyone’s different, and what you need to eat may change over time.

“It took some trial and error to figure out how certain foods affected me,” Berkman says. “I learned that I can tolerate pizza and pasta in moderate amounts. But potatoes have a stronger impact on my blood sugar. I have to be careful and eat chips and french fries less frequently, and in small portions.”

4. Is this normal?

Blurred vision, thirst, peeing a lot, rapid weight loss, and mood changes are all signs your diabetes may not be under control. But tell your doctor about anything that seems out of the norm or like it could be a problem.

“Little issues could be a sign of bigger problems,” Schulman says.

One way to make sure you don’t forget to bring “the little stuff” up during your next visit: “Write down your questions and concerns ahead of time, and bring that paper to the appointment,” Jaffe says.

WebMD Feature

Sources

SOURCES:

American Diabetes Association: "A1c and eAG.”

American Diabetes Association: “All About Blood Glucose.”

Marc Jaffe, MD, endocrinologist, Kaiser Permanente Medical Group, San Francisco.

Joslin Diabetes Center: “Nine Diabetes Questions For Your Doctor.”

Wesley Mills, MD, St. Vincent’s Primary Care, Jacksonville, FL.

Rifka Schulman, MD, director, inpatient diabetes, Long Island Jewish Medical Center, New Hyde Park, NY.

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