November 12, 2015

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

When Helen was diagnosed with diabetes, her first reaction was fear - fear for her health and fear of the unknown. “What did this mean for her and her family? How would she live with this disease?,” she wondered. When the shock wore off, Helen decided to confront her own fear and do some research. Knowledge, she believed, was power, and she wanted to face her condition head-on.

Diabetes is a condition much talked and written about in TV commercials and in magazines, but most of what Helen had seen and read were ads for one product or another. She was looking for information that could help her play an active role in her own health care.

Symptoms of diabetes were noted millennia ago, in manuscripts from Ancient Egypt. A physician in Ancient Greece wrote the first known clinical report of the disease. Descriptions of the illness that caused too much sugar in a person’s blood appeared later in records from Asia to the Middle East to Europe and the New World. It wasn’t until the early 1920’s though, that two Canadians, Frederick Banting and Charles Best, first used insulin to successfully treat a patient with diabetes. Today, 21 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease and more than 8 million more have diabetes, but don’t know it.

There’s a lot written about the history and treatment of diabetes, but, in her research, Helen wanted information more useful to her as a patient. On the website, created by the Wisconsin Health Information Organization, Helen learned that not all health care is the same; some clinics in Wisconsin offered better care than others for patients with diabetes. She learned that there are tests a person with diabetes should undergo every year; and that doctors who don’t order those tests routinely are not providing the best care to their patients.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor should be following a series of best practices to treat you, including:

▪Conducting an annual test to check your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level

▪Conducting an annual test to check your triglyceride levels

▪Conducting an annual screening test to check you for diabetic retinopathy - acute damage to the retina of your eye (If you are between 18 and 75 years of age)

▪Conducting an annual test to check your kidneys (if you are between 18 and 75 years of age

▪Conducting an annual test to check your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol level (if you are between 18 and 75 years of age)

▪Conducting an annual test to check your blood sugar (if you are between 5 and 17 years of age)

▪Testing your blood sugar level at least two (2) times every year

▪Requesting an office visit for you every six (6) months

▪Referring you to a specialist if you have specific diabetic complications

If you believe your doctor is not following these best practices, please ask to have a discussion about your treatment.

At, Helen also found useful tips on what questions to ask her doctor and what information to bring to every doctor visit. The site also provided ratings of clinics in her area showing which ones offered the best care.

Diabetes and other health conditions are managed best when doctor and patient work together, as partners, to ensure high quality health care.