In general, Virginia Shreve, a 51-year-old school social worker in Lynchburg, Va., likes her family physician. However, he was less than sympathetic when she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
He yelled at me like a child
Another physician had diagnosed Shreve with type 2 diabetes after she went to a walk-in urgent-care clinic for back pain. At the time she was given the blood-sugar-lowering drug metformin.
When she finally got in to see her family physician a few weeks later, she told him the drug was causing stomach problems (a common side effect), and asked for a new one.
"He literally raised his voice and yelled at me like I was a child. He told me 'Yes, we could change this metformin, but you can quickly run through all the oral medications for diabetes, then you’re not going to be left with any choice but insulin,'" she says.
He told her that her pancreas was "dying" and that they needed to "try to keep it alive" as long as they could. He told her to "just walk five miles a day and you'll fix this."
"In hindsight, I can appreciate some of what he said," Shreve says. "But at the time, this was very difficult to wrap my mind around. He was very hard-core."
Doctors can get frustrated with type 2 diabetes, too
Type 2 diabetes can be a challenge for both patients and physicians, says William Bornstein, MD, an endocrinologist at the Emory Clinic in Atlanta.
“It takes a certain kind of physician to not be drawn into that frustration and not be drawn into saying, ‘Well, you know, if you'd just listen to me and lose weight or exercise every day this would all go away or your blood sugars would be better.”
Shreve now sees an endocrinologist for her diabetes management.
"He's much more reasonable, and he appreciates that I've done a whole lot of reading about diabetes," Shreve says. Recently she was concerned about fluid retention that happened when she was taking Actos, a drug that lowers blood sugar by making the body more sensitive to insulin. He agreed that she should stop taking it.
"My family doctor wasn't willing to consider my perspective, and the endocrinologist really is. He kind of gave me permission to manage this by myself," she says.