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Managing your Diabetes: Talking with your Health Care Team

separator When you have diabetes, staying in regular contact with your healthcare providers is a key component of your care. Communicating well them and contributing valuable information is also extremely important. Your primary care doctor and the other members of the team need to know how you are feeling and how you are doing with your treatment. A lot of the time, you know best when things might not be going just right. That's why it's good to be able to ask questions when you're not sure about something.

For example, if you notice changes in your eyesight, make sure that you let your eye doctor (ophthalmologist) know right away. Don't wait until your next appointment to bring it up. That goes for any kind of discomfort you may have, or general worries about your condition. If you think there might be a problem, it's up to you to let someone on the health care team know about it.

Some of the key people on your care team include:
  • Primary care doctor
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Dietitian or nutritionist
  • Diabetes educator
  • Ophthalmologist or other eye doctor
  • Dentist

They’re all there to help you do your best at managing your diabetes and to treat any complications you may experience.

Don't be afraid to ask questions!
Asking questions is the best way to find out what you want to know. One of the best ways to remember your questions is to write them down when you think of them. That way, you can take the questions with you to your next appointment and you won't forget to ask them. It's also a good idea to take some kind of note pad to your appointments. Taking notes can help you to remember what health care providers say.

Here are the kinds of questions you should feel comfortable asking:

  • It's okay to ask your doctor or any other member of your health care team if you can bring someone with you into the office or the examining room, if that's what you want to do. Having someone else listen to your health care providers can help you remember what they said during the appointment.
  • It's okay to ask what your medicine is for or what it does to help you.
  • It's okay to ask if any other medicines you take have any effect on your diabetes medicine. That goes for any kind of medicine at all, even if it's not prescription medicine.
  • If the doctor changes your medicine or anything else about your treatment, it's okay to ask why.
  • If you have heard about other ways to treat diabetes, it's okay to ask your doctor or other health care providers what they think about them.

Tell your health care team what's on your mind
It's very important to be honest with your health care team. Being honest is one of the best ways to help them give you good care. Here are some examples of things your health care team would like to know:

  • If you're having trouble testing your blood as often as you should, let your health care providers know, and tell them why it's difficult. Then you can talk together about making a plan to help you test more frequently.
  • If you think it's hard to stick with your eating plan (remember, nobody's perfect!), talk about that with your dietician, diabetes educator or doctor.
  • If you think some of your medicine makes you feel bad, let your doctor or nurse know, so that you can talk about it. But don't stop taking a medicine without talking to your doctor first!
  • If you feel upset sometimes, and think about stopping the blood testing or insulin shots, tell your health care providers how you are feeling before you skip these things.

Visit your providers even when you’re feeling good
Sometimes, it may seem like going to see your diabetes educator isn’t really necessary this time. Or you may be feeling completely fine, and that visit to your doctor seems like something you can put off.

The truth is that when you have diabetes, it’s best to stay in touch with your care team even when things are going great. For example, your blood pressure could be getting high, but you would have no way of knowing that without a doctor’s visit. Or maybe there’s a new testing meter available, and your diabetes educator thinks that you would do well with that particular one.

One thing about diabetes you can be sure of—things are always changing. Your health status can change, and there are constantly new developments in terms of treatment and testing. Your care team can help you keep up with the changes, and that’s one of the best ways to manage your condition well.

L. Holzmeister, P Geil. Diabetes Nutrition A to Z. American Diabetes Association, 2001; The National Federation of the Blind: The Voice of the Diabetic. Spring 1997; H.P. Chase, MD. Understanding Insulin Dependent Diabetes; The Guild of the Children’s Diabetes Foundation at Denver; 9th Edition.
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