As we practice social distancing and while many of us are under “stay at home” orders, you may be wondering how to handle your routine doctors appointments. If you have diabetes, you likely have regular appointments with your primary care physician. If you have type 1 diabetes, or type 2 diabetes that is difficult to control, you may also regularly see an endocrinologist or a physician who specializes in diabetes.
First, you should check with your doctor to determine if he or she is offering virtual visits. Virtual visits are a way physicians can connect with their patients either on the phone or using two-way audio and visual communication software. Virtual care is often available through your cell phone. Medicare and Medicaid, along with many private insurance companies, have loosened the rules around this type of visit, which makes it much more accessible. If your diabetes is stable, a virtual visit may be all you need at this time. You may even be able to handle new prescriptions, medication renewals or medication adjustments this way. If your doctor does not offer virtual visits, he or she will instruct you as to whether you need to be seen in the office.
If your diabetes is not stable, you may need an in-person visit. Most offices have made plans for this and are taking action to minimize your risk of exposure to COVID-19 if you do need to come into the office. Most offices or sites are checking patients for symptoms at the door and redirecting patients who are ill with COVID-19-like symptoms to another site of care, or taking precautions to isolate them from other patients. Please do not forgo care for important health issues such as diabetes, as doing so might result in a hospitalization. Stay in contact with your doctor so you are still able to get the care you need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If your diabetes is not stable, meaning not well controlled or you are having complications from your diabetes, you may need to seek medical attention more urgently. While often this can be handled with a simple medication adjustment, sometimes patients need lab tests, fluids through an IV, amd/or inpatient care.
If you are experiencing any of the following severe complications you should report to the nearest emergency room or call 911:
- Chest pain
- Severe abdominal pain
- Confusion or lethargy
- Nausea and vomiting that you cannot control
- Very high blood sugar (greater than 350 mg/dl)
- Difficulty breathing
Consult your healthcare provider if you have persistently low blood sugar levels. Remember it is always helpful to have a support person available or to let someone know if you are having blood sugar problems. Also call your doctor if you are feeling sick, especially if you have a high fever, your blood glucose is higher than your treatment target range, and/or you have signs of dehydration such as dry mouth/cracked lips.