Guide: Talking to Your Doctor About Type 2 Diabetes
Getting the diabetes care you need isn’t always easy. One of the most effective things you can do is learn how to communicate clearly and honestly with your healthcare providers. Whether you’re talking with a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, nutritionist, or some other healthcare provider, how you communicate with them will influence the care you receive.
The more they understand what you’re experiencing in your day-to-day life with type 2 diabetes, what your goals are, and what’s important to you, the more they can help you with your overall diabetes care.
Where to begin…
Begin with you. Every person is unique and healthcare is very personal. Take some time before you talk with your provider to reflect on what you are experiencing when it comes to your health and managing type 2 diabetes (T2D).
Check in with how you are feeling and how your daily diabetes self-care is going. What’s working well? What questions do you have? What could stand some improvement? Are there things you feel less than confident about that you want to learn more about? Like, how to interpret your blood glucose readings? Or, when to take your medication?
How are you feeling about that particular medication? Are the side effects bothering you so much that you stopped taking it? Do you understand how that medication is helping your diabetes?
Think about what’s really important to you. Consider how your diabetes care is either supporting that or getting in the way. This will help you identify the topics you want to be sure to talk about.
Be open, be honest…
Be willing to talk with your provider about everything related to your health and T2D—even topics that might feel uncomfortable or taboo, like your sexual health (for both men and women) and your mental health. T2D can have an effect on every aspect of your health and wellbeing, so everything is relevant.
Be sure to share both the good and the not-so-good with your provider so they get a more complete picture of your state of health.
Think about bringing someone with you to your appointment to support your communication. This can be especially useful if there are language or cultural barriers.
Sometimes it helps to make a list or write some notes before and during your appointment so that nothing gets missed or forgotten.
If a question or concern comes up between appointments don’t feel like you have to wait to get an answer. Find out how to contact your provider between appointments. This can mean calling their office, sending an email, or using a patient portal to get in touch.
What to ask
There is no standard list of questions. Everyone’s situation is unique.
But there are some categories of questions that come up often. These include questions about your general health, your lab results, your medications, things to look out for, your mental health and using complementary health practices.
Listed below are some of the more common questions that come up in each of these categories. Use these lists to help gather your thoughts.
General Health Questions
- What is the most important thing I can be doing to manage my T2D?
- How often should I check my blood glucose levels?
- I had [this] happen. Should I be concerned? How can I avoid having this happen again?
- Where can I find out more information about [this]? Get support for [this]?
- Is there a health class or someone you can refer me to for help with [this]?
- If I have a question or concern before my next appointment what is the best way to contact you?
As part of your type 2 diabetes care your healthcare provider will order lab tests to measure things like your blood glucose levels, kidney function and cholesterol levels. It can get confusing what all these tests mean. Here are some key questions you can ask.
- What is this test called?
- What does it measure?
- Why is it important to measure this? What does this test tell me about my health risks and state of health?
- What do my results show?
- What kind of trend do my results show over the last 3, 6, 9, or 12 months?
- Is there a target result to work towards?
- What is the best way for me to work towards that target?
- How can I learn more about how to improve my results?
There are a number of different medications you can use to manage your T2D. Some, like metformin, come in pill form and the same amount is taken each day. Others are injectables that can be taken using syringes, pens, or a pump. With some injectables you will take the same amount each day, but with others, like insulin, the dose can vary.
It’s important to understand all the medications you are taking, how and when to take them, their effects and their possible side effects. Be sure to ask all the questions you need to so that you have a good understanding of the medications you are taking.
- What is this medication called?
- Is that a brand name or a generic name? (It’s best to know both so that you can recognize it no matter what it’s being called.)
- What does this medication do? What is the benefit of taking it?
- What dose should I take and how many times each day?
- When should I take this medication? Before or after meals? At bedtime? When I experience a particular symptom?
- What do I do if I miss taking a dose?
- What kind of side effects should I be on the lookout for? Can these side effects be life-threatening?
- Can this medication cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)?
- What do I do if I experience hypoglycemia while taking this medication?
- Is there any situation when I should stop taking this medication on my own?
- If I cannot tolerate the side effects of this medication what can I use instead?
- If I cannot afford the cost of this medication what can I use instead?
People with diabetes are two to three times more likely to experience depression. The stress of having to manage a chronic condition, including T2D, can lead to anxiety. Any disruption to your mental health can undermine your ability to keep up with the self-care that diabetes requires.
Be sure to let your practitioner know if you are experiencing any of the following feelings and emotions, especially if you are finding that they are keeping you from managing your diabetes:
- Persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety
- Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Feelings of panic or doom
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of motivation
Be open and honest about how you’re feeling, and how that’s affecting your ability to manage your diabetes. Then ask for help.
Complementary Health Practices
Many people use complementary health practices, along with traditional medical treatments, to manage their health. These practices include acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, meditation, natural supplements and reflexology.
Tell your healthcare practitioner if you’re using any complementary health practices. Your practitioner will want to know in case any of these practices can have an effect on traditional medical treatments. Natural supplements and herbological treatments are especially important to mention. Some of them, when taken along with medication, can produce unexpected, harmful, or life-threatening results.
Be open and honest about any complementary health practices that use or are thinking about using. Ask if these practices might cause concern with any of the medications or practices you use to manage your diabetes.
Communicate to get the best care for you
The bottom line is: the more open and honest you are with your healthcare team, the more they can support your physical and mental health.
This content on diabetes management was made possible with support from Lilly Diabetes. Beyond Type 2 maintains full editorial control of all content published on our platforms.