A diagnosis of diabetes is not to be taken lightly. Yes, it will take time and determination to adapt to living with it, but diabetes can be controlled, allowing for a near-normal lifestyle. This includes adapting to new medication, making changes to your diet and exercise regimens, and the need for constant self-monitoring

When diabetes is diagnosed in an adult, it is most likely type 2.  When you have type 2 diabetes, your body does not utilize insulin effectively and blood sugar levels become elevated.  Your body tries to compensate by producing more insulin, but it is ineffective and blood glucose levels remain elevated. Sustained high blood glucose levels are damaging to the body and can cause serious health problems.

Naturally, this means you should have a lot of questions for your doctor.  To assist you in having the type of Q&A session where all bases are covered, here is a list of questions, that once answered, should provide you with enough information to give you a real understanding of how diabetes will affect your life moving forward.

What to Ask your Doctor about a Diabetes Diagnosis

Basic questions to ask your doctor upon first learning about your diagnosis of diabetes

  • How did I develop diabetes?
  • What were the primary risk factors for me?
  • What type of diabetes do I have? Is it type 1 or type 2? Are they treated the same?
  • Will I have diabetes for my entire life?
  • Are there any stages of diabetes, and if yes, what are they?
  • What are possible complications and how do I deal with them?
  • Does having diabetes increase my chances of other medical problems?

Once you know that you have diabetes, you have the responsibility to follow all steps to keep it under control, including personally monitoring your blood sugar, diet and exercise.

If your blood sugar is not well controlled, diabetes can cause cardiovascular and neurological damage involving kidney and heart function, as well as neuropathy and circulatory problems.  The latter can lead to mobility issues, even amputation. Uncontrolled diabetes can also lead to impaired vision, even blindness. Maintaining dental health is especially important for diabetics as well since oral infections are more likely to lead to systemic infections.

As a result, you may need to arrange periodic visits to several different healthcare professionals besides your primary care physician.  These can include a podiatrist to check your feet, an ophthalmologist to check your eyes, and a dentist for cleanings and exams.  You will also need to schedule regular appointments with your primary care physician to monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides, and A1C levels.

Make your doctor a partner in care.

Once you have a basic understanding of what your diagnosis of diabetes means, it is important to ask questions that are more specific about your care, including information about prescribed medications, monitoring your blood glucose levels, and changes to your lifestyle.

Beyond the basics:  follow up questions for your doctor

Monitoring Blood Sugar

  • How often should I check my blood sugar?
  • When should I check my blood sugar?
  • What is a normal blood sugar level? What is too low? What is too high? What should I do if my blood sugar is out of range?
  • What are some signs that my blood sugar is too high or too low?

Monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure levels

High blood pressure and high levels of “bad” cholesterol are common in people with diabetes and can increase the risk of circulatory and cardiac complications.

  • When should I check my cholesterol and blood pressure levels?

Diet

  • What is the importance of diet for managing diabetes?
  • Will I have to cut down on my favorite foods to keep my diabetes under control?
  • Do I need to lose weight to bring my diabetes under control?
  • What foods increase my blood sugar the most?
  • What foods can help me achieve my weight loss goals?

Exercise

  • Does exercise help to keep my diabetes under control?
  • Do I need to tweak my exercise plan?
  • What type of exercise program is best for me?
  • What kind of exercise should I avoid?
  • Do I need to check my blood sugar when exercising?
  • What is best: eat before or during exercise?
  • Should I adjust my medicines when I exercise?

Feet

Diabetes is known to harm your feet if your blood sugar is not controlled. Chronically high blood sugar levels may lead to nerve damage; foot deformities; foot ulcers that don’t heal; blood vessel damage leading to reduced blood flow within your feet.

  • Should I see a podiatrist regularly?
  • When should I check my feet? What should I do when I check them? What problems should I call my podiatrist about?
  • Is it OK if I trim my own toenails, or should that be done by my podiatrist?
  • Is there a daily routine for taking care of my feet?
  • Are any special shoes and socks needed?

Eyes

  • How often should I make appointments for eye exams?
  • What eye problems should I call my doctor about?

Family

  • Can I conceive if I have diabetes?
  • Does diabetes affect fetal development?
  • What is gestational diabetes?
  • Are my children at a higher risk of getting diabetes?
  • How do I prevent my children from getting diabetes?

Travel

  • How should I handle my diabetes when I travel?

Questions about your Diabetes Medication

Non-Insulin and Insulin are the two major classes of medication for treating Type 2 Diabetes.

Questions to ask your doctor about non-insulin diabetes medications, specifically metformin or a sulfonylurea (SFU) at diagnosis:

Why am I being prescribed metformin or a sulfonylurea (SFU) at diagnosis?

Metformin is often the first non-insulin medication prescribed to people with type 2 diabetes (T2D) because it’s safe, effective and affordable due to generic options. It does not cause low blood sugar on its own because it only reduces the amount of glucose released from the liver. It also works well with other medications; if metformin alone isn’t enough to help you reach your goal.

Commonly prescribed metformin medications include:

  • Avandamet (Rosiglitazone, Metformin)
  • Glucophage (Metformin Hydrochloride)
  • Glumetza (Metformin Hydrochloride)
  • Invokamet (Canagliflozin, Metformin Hydrochloride)
  • Janumet / Janumet XR (Sitagliptin Phosphate, Metformin Hydrochloride)
  • Jentadueto (Metformin Hydrochloride, Linagliptin)
  • Synjardy (Metformin Hydrochloride, Empagliflozin)
  • Xigduo (Dapagliflozin Propanediol Monohydrate, Metformin)

Sulfonylureas, on the other hand, can cause low blood sugar levels because they stimulate insulin production. They can be effective for people struggling with high blood sugar levels.

Commonly prescribed sulfonylureas include:

  • DiaBeta (Glyburide)
  • Amaryl (glimepiride)
  • Diabinese (chlorpropamide)
  • Glucotrol (glipizide)
  • Tolinase (tolazamide)
  • Tolbutamide

What are the possible side effects? What do I do if I experience them?

These side effects include:

  • Low blood sugarIf you’re taking medication that is causing low blood sugar, you should tell your doctor immediately. This is a sign that your dosages may need to be adjusted.
  • Digestive issues: Metformin should always be taken with food.
  • High blood sugars: If the medication is not working, tell your doctor! You may need to try different options before finding the most effective treatment for you.

When will I know it’s time to change medications or increase the dosage of my current medication?

First, ask your doctor how quickly you should expect to see improvement in your blood sugar once you begin the new medication. Some medications can take a couple of weeks to have an impact while others demonstrate immediate improvement.

Secondly, if you aren’t seeing an improvement in your blood sugar within the expected amount of time, contact your doctor. If your blood sugar is not improving, either the medication isn’t effective for your body’s needs or the dosage is too low. If your blood sugar is too low, consider asking your doctor to reduce the dosage.

What if I cannot tolerate the side effects of this medication and I want to take something else?

If you just cannot tolerate the side effects of certain medications, talk to your doctor immediately to discuss other options.

My medications are too expensive, is there anything else I can do?

Metformin and sulfonylureas are among the most affordable diabetes medications, but they may still be too expensive for you, so ask your doctor if generic versions are available and if other financial assistance options are available. By ordering insulin online through a Canadian pharmacy such as Buy Canadian Insulin, Americans can save up to 90% on their prescription medication.

Are there some medications I shouldn’t take because I may have another health condition/diabetes-related complication?

If you have pre-existing conditions, you should certainly discuss with your doctor alternative medication options available to reduce the risk of specific complications.

When discussing new medication options, be sure that your doctor is aware of your full health history, other medications you take and any vitamins and supplements.

Which medications are the most convenient in terms of when to take them?

 There is a variety of options within each class of medications that you can discuss with your doctor.

Questions to ask your doctor about Insulin Therapy for Type 2 Diabetes

Why do I need to start using insulin?

  • You have just been diagnosed and your blood sugar levels have been dangerously elevated for a significant time.
  • You have lived with type 2 diabetes for some time and tried other ways to control it.
  • Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease for many people, meaning that over time, less and less insulin is produced.

How do I take insulin?

Make sure to ask your doctor to show you every step involved in taking insulin by injection or inhalation.  Even if these are simple steps, it’s still important to follow each step carefully and accurately to avoid any complications.

I hate needles, so how can I handle this for my insulin needs?

Ask your doctor for available options. Don’t let “needle phobia” stand in the way of the medical treatment you need. Insulin can also be administered with injectable pens which are less painful than needle injections.

What kind of insulin will I be taking?

When it comes to insulin, it’s important to ask your doctor whether you’re taking insulin that acts immediately or one that is longer lasting. This affects the timing and frequency of your insulin dosages.

If you experience frequent high or low blood sugars, tell your doctor immediately.

How do I know if I am taking too much insulin?

If you have consistently low blood sugars, you are using too much insulin. This can be dangerous and potentially lead to hypoglycemia.

How do I know if my insulin doses are too low?

Elevated blood sugar levels mean that you are not getting enough insulin. Use your glucose meter to determine if you are within range. If not, talk to your doctor about adjusting your insulin doses and other medication doses.

What could potentially cause my body to need less insulin

You can improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin and reduce your overall insulin needs by taking the following steps: increased exercise, a healthier diet, weight loss, reduced alcohol intake, and stopping smoking.

Suggestion: Talk to your doctor about working with a dietitian or certified diabetes care and education specialist to help you build gradual improvements into your daily lifestyle habits.

How long will I need to continue to take insulin?

Some people with type 2 diabetes may need to take insulin for the rest of their lives, while others may only need insulin for a shorter period of time as they work on changes in their lifestyle habits, or are able to switch to non-insulin medications.  Talk to your doctor about future possibilities for you and your diabetes.

What if I can’t afford my insulin needs?

Insulin is very expensive. Your healthcare provider can help you access the different resources available to help you afford your insulin. As mentioned previously, Buy Canadian Insulin helps thousands of Americans save up to 90% on insulin, diabetes supplies, and other prescription medication.

I don’t like taking insulin – can I stop taking it?

No, you should never stop taking your insulin without discussing it with your doctor first. If you are unhappy with your insulin program or the side effects you are experiencing, contact your healthcare team immediately.

The Bottom Line

Your diabetes treatment plan should be specifically tailored for you. It is not set in concrete and may be modified several times over the course of time. Different factors will affect your treatment over time such as aging, changes in your activity level, and your ability to stay with your medication. Therefore, it is important to check with your doctor whenever you have questions about your treatment and notify them if any new symptoms or side effects show up.