Diabetes in the Workplace

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease which affects the body’s ability to make and store glucose (a form of sugar). Glucose then backs up in the bloodstream, causing a person’s blood glucose (or blood sugar levels) to rise too high.


Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia; it is increasing at a faster rate than heart disease and cancer.

There are two major types of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes is a lifelong autoimmune disease that usually develops during childhood but can occur at any age. The disease affects over 120,000 people in Australia alone.

In type 1 diabetes the body completely stops producing insulin, a hormone responsible for processing sugar to crete energy. Without insulin the body literally starves as it cannot process food.

As a result of these low insulin levels, people with  type 1 diabetes are required to take daily insulin injections to survive.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin and / or is unable to use insulin properly (known as insulin resistance). This form of diabetes usually occurs in people who are over 40, overweight, and / or have a family history of diabetes, although today the illness is increasingly occurring in younger people, particularly adolescents.


What are the symptoms of diabetes?

The most common symptoms associated with diabetes include:

  • being very thirsty
  • frequent urination
  • weight loss
  • increased hunger
  • blurry vision
  • irritability
  • tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • frequent skin, bladder or gum infections
  • wounds that don’t heal
  • extreme unexplained fatigue

In many cases, there are no symptoms. People can live for months or even years without knowing they have diabetes.  In fact it is estimated that around one third of all people with diabetes are unaware that they have the disease.

Who is most at risk?

Anyone can get diabetes. However, if you have a relative with the disease, are obese, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and are not very physically active, you are at a higher risk of developing diabetes.


How is diabetes treated?

The main goals of diabetes treatment are to control a patient’s glucose levels and prevent diabetes complications.

Diet is a crucial factor in the management of diabetes. People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes need to be aware of not only what they eat, but also when and how much they eat.

Physical Activity plays a crucial role in controlling diabetes and preventing complications such as heart disease and high blood pressure.

Medications are often used in conjunction with diet and exercise to manage diabetes. Oral medications can be used to help control blood glucose levels. People with type 1 diabetes are required to give themselves regular insulin injections or use an insulin pump to control their diabetes.


What are the complications of diabetes?

Poorly managed diabetes can lead to a host of long-term complications, including stroke, heart attack, blindness, impotence in men, nerve damage, kidney failure and blood vessel disease that may require amputation..

Fortunately, if patients keep their blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible, they can reduce their risk of developing some of these complications by 50 percent or more.


Can diabetes be prevented?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that cannot be prevented, but recent studies have shown that modest weight loss (5-10% of body weight) and moderate daily physical activity (30 minutes a day) can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.


Diabetes in the workplace

Most people with diabetes will not require significant adjustments to their workplace, but there are some things employers can do to help make life easier for workers with the condition.

  • Employees with diabetes should be provided with regularly scheduled breaks to allow time for snacks, medications and blood glucose testing.
  • Employers should provide a quiet space for blood glucose testing and the administration of medication. A sharps disposal unit may be required in the workplace.
  • Workplace first aid kits should contain easily absorbed carbohydrate foods (for example jelly beans or fruit juice).
  • Records of an employee’s condition should be kept on file as workers compensation may be affected if diabetes is not disclosed.

Most individuals with diabetes work with few or no restrictions, and employers are often unaware that team members are living with the condition.

Chronic, lifelong conditions such as type 1 diabetes require regular monitoring and doctor’s appointments. Thanks to Docto, these appointments can now be attended from the comfort of home. Docto: the way of the future.