Diabetes in the Workplace

It’s been estimated that 366 million people are afflicted with diabetes worldwide. With such large numbers, it’s imperative that employers inform their employees about the symptoms, risk factors, and complications of this dangerous disease. Incorporating diabetes awareness into a wellness program will also help employees afflicted with this disease receive the accommodations they need to improve their well-being.

What causes diabetes?
Diabetes is linked to insulin – a hormone produced by the pancreas to control blood sugar. Insulin moves glucose from the bloodstream into muscle, fat, and liver cells, where it is used as fuel for the body. Diabetes is a result of too little insulin, resistance to insulin, or both, caused by either the pancreas not making enough insulin or cells not responding to the insulin.

Symptoms
There are three forms of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational Diabetes. Diabetes often goes undiagnosed, but early detection is key in avoiding many complications associated with the disease. All three forms of diabetes have similar symptoms, including:
• Frequent urination
• Unusual thirst
• Extreme hunger
• Unusual weight loss
• Extreme fatigue and irritability
• Blurred vision
• Tingling or numbing sensation in hands and feet
• Cuts or bruises that heal slowly
• Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections

Risk factors
There are several factors that increase an individual’s risk for diabetes. Some of these include:
Genetics and family history – Risk increases with a first degree relative (i.e. parent or sibling).
Obesity or being overweight – Individuals with a BMI of 25 (overweight) to 30 or more (obese) have an increased risk of developing diabetes.
High Blood Pressure – Blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or higher increases risk.
Sedentary lifestyle – Individuals who exercise fewer than three times a week increase their risk.
Adults over 45 years of age – Development of diabetes increases as adults’ age.

Complications
It’s important for victims of diabetes to receive proper treatment. If gone untreated, diabetes can lead to several serious complications, including glaucoma, cataracts, nerve damage, kidney disease, hearing loss, foot and skin problems, and many more.

Diabetes in the workplace
Employers can incorporate several initiatives that will increase diabetes awareness and accommodation in the workplace. Some of these include:

Providing diabetes awareness to staff members – Employers should be sure to make their employees aware of the symptoms and risk factors of diabetes.
Participating in local diabetes organisation functions and fundraisers – A great way to help with diabetes research and awareness is to participate in walks and provide donations as a group.
Providing breaks for checking blood sugar – Employees with diabetes will need to monitor their blood sugar. Be sure your managers provide adequate breaks for their staff to check their blood sugar levels.
Providing rest areas – Employers should also provide rest areas for any employees with diabetes to provide them an area of rest to lower their blood sugar.
Providing accommodating office equipment – Diabetes patients with eye and neurological complications might need accommodating office equipment, like large computer screens or special desk chairs.

The bottom line
Diabetes is a serious disease that if gone untreated may lead to serious complications. Employers should incorporate diabetes awareness into their wellness program to help their employees learn the symptoms, risk factors, and complications of the disease. As part of the initiative, employers should also offer necessary accommodations to employees already afflicted with diabetes. Through awareness and accommodation, all employees will enjoy better health and wellness.

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