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Diabetes is a medical condition where people cannot produce enough insulin or their body cannot adequately use the insulin it has produced. Insulin is the hormone that controls the level of glucose, which is a form of sugar, in the bloodstream by regulating its movement into your cells. Insulin is necessary because glucose is main source of energy for the body's cells. The human body can produce glucose or get it from food.
There are three types of diabetes:
When the pancreas does not produce insulin, glucose builds up in your blood. This condition is known as hyperglycemia. Fluctuations of blood glucose levels outside of the target range can lead to serious health problems involving the blood vessels and nerves, including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, heart attack, and blindness.
When the body does not have glucose for fuel, it starts to use fat. As a result of that process, the cells produce ketones that are then released into the blood. Some of these ketones will pass out of the body through the urine. However, high levels of ketones in the blood can cause the blood to become acidic. In people with diabetes, this is called diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA. DKA can lead to coma or death if not treated. DKA is more common in those with type 1 diabetes, but can also happen to those with type 2 diabetes.
Hypoglycemia can also occur. Hypoglycemia is too little glucose in the blood. It can occur when insulin removes too much glucose from the blood as a result of increased physical activity, too much medication, too little food (or a missed or delayed snack or meal), and the effects of drinking alcohol.
Other impacts of diabetes will happen gradually. Risk of these complications increases the longer someone has diabetes, and the less controlled their blood sugar is. Complications include:
Symptoms or signs linked to the development of diabetes include:
Not all people will show signs and symptoms.
Diagnosis of diabetes must be made by a doctor. There are several blood tests that may be conducted to help diagnose the condition. Those with symptoms of diabetes or high risk factors should be tested. Early diagnosis and co-operating with health care professionals will help prevent serious complications that can result from untreated or poorly managed diabetes.
The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. Risk factors may include family history, environmental factors (e.g., some viral illnesses may play a role), and the presence of immune system cells known as autoantibodies.
Causes of type 2 diabetes are also uncertain, but are strongly linked to being overweight (although not everyone with type 2 is overweight). Risk factors include weight, inactivity, family history, race, age, gestational diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, and high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol.
Most often, diabetes has little or no impact on an employee's ability to do their job and employers may not even know the employee has diabetes. The impact of diabetes varies among individuals. Many people manage their diabetes through their diet, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight. Individuals using medications may take the medication orally, or they may self-administer insulin by syringe, pen or have an implanted insulin pump.
Determine if any concerns are reasonable given the individuals expected duties, and the facts of each individual's symptoms and treatment plan. In most workplace environments, such as offices or retail spaces, an employee`s diabetes will not put themselves or others at risk. Disorientation and fainting episodes are uncommon, but may be caused by hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels). However, if an employee could become suddenly disoriented while operating, for example, heavy machinery, the risk of injury are higher.
Employers must accommodate employees with diabetes (unless it can be shown to cause undue hardship to the organization). Employers and employees should work together to address concerns around diabetes respectfully. These accommodations may include time or a private place to administer any medications or to conduct blood sugar tests, the ability to keep food nearby, or a schedule of regular breaks to maintain a prescribed diet. Time off to attend medical appointments would be another example.
Occupational factors associated with the development of diabetes include:
Be aware of the risk factors that can be controlled. Workplaces can help by:
Hypoglycemia should be treated by first aid. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include cold, clammy or sweaty skin, blurred vision, dizziness, shakiness/lack of coordination, headache, irritability or hostility, stomach ache, or nausea.
If possible, check the person's blood glucose level. If a glucose meter is not available, treat the symptoms. It is better to be safe. First aid steps include to:
If the treatment does not work, or if the person becomes confused or disoriented, loses consciousness, or has a seizure, call 911 immediately for medical help.
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Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.