As a person with diabetes, you are in charge of your diabetes management. Your doctor, diabetes educator, dietitian, and other members of your team are there to give input on your plan, but between checkups, your diabetes care is your responsibility.
Having the information you need is key to successfully managing your diabetes. It’s important to truly know what your diabetes plan is and to understand how to carry it out. It also helps to know why you’re doing the things you’re doing. For example, your doctor may tell you that you need an HbA1c test result below 7%, but you may not feel that striving for that is worth the effort unless you know that a result under 7% is directly associated with fewer long-term complications. In addition, knowing what, knowing how, and knowing why can help you problem-solve should something go wrong.
The following questions are designed to get you thinking about how well you know your diabetes control plan, while encouraging you to seek out the missing answers.
Do you know the names of the medicines you take for your
Drugs often go by two different names: the generic name, which is the scientific name of the drug, and the brand name, which is the name you’ll see in large print in TV or magazine ads. Drugs sold as generics are labeled only with their generic names, while brand-name drugs are labeled with both the generic name and the brand name. For example, the long-acting insulin Lantus is marked with both its brand name, Lantus, and its generic name, insulin glargine. In most cases, knowing one or the other is probably sufficient, but there may be instances where it’s important to know both names.
When do you need to know the names of your medicines? If you were ever separated from your diabetes supplies while traveling or because of a natural disaster and couldn’t easily contact your doctor or pharmacy, you would likely be able to replace your medicines faster if you knew what you needed.
Another instance when it’s important to know what you take is if you require the services of emergency medical personnel. Some medicines can react badly with other medicines, and if you develop a serious illness or injury that could be helped with the administration of certain drugs, the people helping you need to know what drugs are already in your system so they don’t give you a drug that could interact with them. “This could be a very dangerous situation,” says endocrinologist Steven Edelman, MD, “especially if a person is having a serious problem like a heart attack and the physicians need to administer some heavy-duty drugs.” These drugs can have bad interactions, he says, so knowing types of medicines and the amounts is incredibly important to staying safe.
It’s also useful to know what drugs you take for your diabetes (and any other medical conditions you may have) if you see more than one doctor. Before a doctor prescribes a new medicine for you or changes a dose, he wants to know that it won’t conflict with any others you already take. Having a list of what you take at the ready can save a lot of time that might otherwise be spent contacting other doctors or your pharmacy.
What if you can’t remember the names and doses of the drugs you take? Write them down! In fact, even if you can remember, it’s a good idea to write this information down, just in case you’re ever in a situation where you can’t communicate it. Write down both the generic name and the brand name (if any) and the dose you take. Include when you take each and how (for example, by mouth, syringe, or insulin pump), then make a few photocopies of your list and stick them in your wallet, purse, or briefcase; your emergency evacuation kit; a desk drawer or locker at work; and an accessible place at home. You might also give one to a friend or family member.