The Equality Act 2010 identifies diabetes as an ‘unseen disability.’ Diabetes has two main types, with 4.7 million people in the UK living with this lifelong condition (diagnosed and undiagnosed).
What is diabetes?
The common denominator between both forms of diabetes is that they cause people to have too much glucose (sugar) in their blood.
What is Type 1 diabetes?
Type 1 diabetes is when the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Insulin is needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy, so Type 1 diabetics require daily injections of insulin to keep their blood glucose levels at manageable levels. Unrelated to age, diet or lifestyle, it’s currently unknown why around 10% of Britain’s population suffer from this type of diabetes.
What is Type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes is when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. A lot more common than Type 1, one in ten over 40s in the UK are living with Type 2 diabetes. Some people can control Type 2 diabetes by changing their diet, exercising more and losing weight. Whereas others may need medication to regulate their blood sugar levels, which includes treatments that stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin or others that aid weight loss. There’s even ongoing research that shows that low-calorie weight management can put Type 2 diabetes into remission.
Are there any other forms of diabetes?
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes onset by pregnancy, that affects around 1 in 7 pregnant women. Sufferers don’t generally have diabetes before their pregnancy and it usually goes away after giving birth.
Affecting around 2% of people, there’s also a range of rarer types of diabetes to take note of;
- Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY)
- Neonatal diabetes
- Wolfram Syndrome
- Alström Syndrome
- Latent Autoimmune diabetes in Adults (LADA)
What are the complications of diabetes?
Effective diabetes management is crucial, as high sugar levels in the blood over time can seriously damage blood vessels and lead to further health complications. Ranging from chronic to acute, complications include:
- Heart damage
- Eye damage
- Foot damage
- Kidney damage
- Nerve damage
- Hypos (when blood sugars are too low)
- Hypers (when blood sugars are too high)
- Related conditions
Diabetes and the workplace
Diabetics need to regularly monitor their blood sugar levels to reduce the risk of the serious complications mentioned above. Employers have a legal duty of care to offer reasonable adjustments or support to employees with diabetes, so allowing for regular breaks to check blood sugar levels is an understandable arrangement to put in place. Assessed on an individual basis, other reasonable adjustments could include:
- Awareness of the 15 Healthcare Essentials for diabetes
- Encouragement of diabetic sufferers to inform their colleagues of their condition, so that they can identify the symptoms of a hypo or hyper and understand the treatments available
- A flexible approach to the way they work, working hours and time off
- Modified equipment for employees who have developed diabetic complications
It’s about what you can do, not what you can’t
It’s particularly shocking to learn that one in six people are discriminated against in the workplace because of their diabetes. Working hard to challenge and change this, we are firm believers that everyone deserves to work in an environment where they can feel confident to ask for the support they need. If this fits with your own ethos, find out more about who we are and what we do.