Men's Health Week 2018: Diabetes

Men’s Health Week 2018: Diabetes

This years Men’s Health Week runs 11th-17th June and the primary focus is on diabetes. Did you know:

  • Diabetes is more common in men than women?
  • Men are more likely to suffer complications?
  • Men are more likely to face amputation as a result of their diabetes?
  • Men are more likely to die from diabetes?

What is diabetes?

Most people know there are two types of diabetes, but not many know what the difference is. Type 1 diabetes is a serious, lifelong condition where your blood glucose level is too high because your body cannot make the insulin hormone. About 10% of people in the UK with diabetes have type 1, which isn’t caused by diet or lifestyle. Type 2 diabetes is when your pancreas cannot make enough insulin or it doesn’t work properly. 90% of people in the UK with diabetes have type 2, which can be managed by improving diet and lifestyle.

Did you know?

In the UK there are approximately 3.2 million people diagnosed with diabetes, and an estimated 630,000 people who have the condition and do not know it.

Common symptoms include:

Extreme tiredness

Excessive thirst

Frequent need to urinate

Dizziness & blurred vision

Slow healing of wounds

Unexplained weight loss

Nausea & vomiting

The following symptoms are specific in men:

Reduced strength from loss of muscle mass

Recurrent episodes of thrush & itchy genitals

Erectile dysfunction

Working with diabetes

People with diabetes need to be aware of and manage their diabetes on a daily basis. This may involve taking medication at the right time and testing their blood sugars multiple times a day. Injecting medication may be quite personal for some people, so arrangements may need to be in place for that person to have a hygienic and private area in the workplace to do this, and perhaps even a fridge to store their medication.

For the most part, diabetes will not affect an employee’s ability to do their job and it is unlawful for an employer to operate a blanket ban on recruiting diabetic people. Some jobs, especially involving safety-critical activities (e.g police, fire, ambulance services) are subject to individual medical assessments. There are some restrictions in place for jobs involving driving large goods vehicles or passenger carrying vehicles. Insulin-dependent diabetics are only able to hold a Group 2 driving license on a one-year renewable basis and have to be assessed each year for fitness to drive large vehicles or passenger vehicles.

Should employers be informed?

It is advisable that an employer is aware if an employee is diabetic so that any reasonable adjustments can be made. People with diabetes may need to have flexible working hours to be able to test blood sugar levels and eat when required. Some employees may struggle when working irregular shifts, in particular night shifts as changes to the timing of medication and diet can affect their diabetes. The workplace must also be flexible in allowing employees to attend doctor’s appointments/check-ups when required. It is important employers understand the importance of these appointments for people with diabetes and the implications to their health and wellbeing if they do not attend.

It may also be helpful for people with diabetes to inform their colleagues. Diabetes patients who treat their diabetes with insulin are more likely to experience hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose levels) which can be very serious. Colleagues can be taught to recognise the signs of a hypo and what they can do to help. It may be beneficial to keep an emergency hypo box in the workplace containing sugary snacks, fizzy drinks and chocolate.

The following points should be considered by an employer when deciding whether someone with diabetes could work safely in a hazardous occupation or whether occupational health advice may be required:

  • Is the employee physically and mentally fit as a person without diabetes?
  • Is the employee attending regular reviews with a diabetes team?
  • Is the employee’s diabetes well controlled?
  • Has there been any episodes of hypoglycaemia during the past 12 months that have required the assistance of another person?
  • Does the employee have a good standard of vision?

If there is any doubt when answering the above questions, it is advisable that Occupational Health Advice is sought.