If you have diabetes, you probably know the disease is characterized by inability to produce enough insulin, or make proper use of the insulin it produces. Secreted by the pancreas, insulin helps regulate blood sugar levels by moving glucose from the bloodstream into cells for energy. And in people with diabetes, the body is unable to properly use insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels and an increased risk of complications.

As an employee, your diabetes can significantly impact your job, as it affects energy levels, concentration, and mood, and requires breaks to monitor (and manage) blood glucose levels, as well as occasional time off for doctors’ visits. Some types of diabetes are more serious than others, however in all cases it’s important to track your blood sugar to reduce the likelihood and severity of serious health complications.

Managing diabetes through medication, diet, and exercise can help mitigate these effects and improve your job performance. But managing your diabetes in the workplace can often be a challenge. Here are some of the most common difficulties, and what you can do to overcome each.

Maintaining Healthy Blood Sugar Levels

Since diabetics require regular monitoring of their blood sugar levels, you often need to stop work to do so. This can create frustrations amongst other staff members who don’t always understand the complexities of diabetes, and may resent that you get more breaks than them. 

In an extremely high paced work environment, stopping to monitor and manage your blood sugar can be a real problem. The only way it can work is if you have a flexible team and manager. If you believe that you are not being accommodated at work for your condition, you should know that reasonable accommodation is your right. In some cases, you may decide to talk to an employment lawyer to see that right is enforced.

Managing Diabetes Symptoms and Complications At Work

Some forms of diabetes may result in physical discomfort, ranging from fatigue to extreme pain. As such, it can be difficult to stay focused on the job. When your head is pounding, or you’re parched with thirst, it can be difficult to give your all on the job. This is why it’s so important to practice self-care and do whatever it takes to keep your symptoms at bay.

Diabetes is also a leading cause of kidney disease, which can often require you take time off for dialysis. The frequency of dialysis for people with diabetic kidney disease varies depending on the stage of the disease and individual needs. In early stages of diabetic kidney disease, dialysis may not be needed at all. However, as the disease progresses and kidney function declines, dialysis may be needed 3 times a week for 3-4 hours per session. In advanced stages, dialysis may be needed on a daily basis.

Other complications of diabetes can include heart disease, nerve damage, eye damage, dental issues, skin problems, depression and cognitive decline. To be able to properly care for primary diabetes as well as any complications you may have, it’s important to request reasonable accommodations from your employer.

Caring for your Mental Health After A Diabetes Diagnosis

Navigating diabetes management on top of work duties can be distressing physically but also psychologically. You can find yourself frustrated, angry, and sometimes outright exhausted because of your condition. Going through daily life with a chronic condition like type 1 or type 2 diabetes comes with a lot of challenges. 

Maintaining your mental health isn’t always easy in the workplace. You may find yourself irritable, and sometimes even lacking confidence. Employees looking to manage their mental health at work should reach out for support. Whether it’s with your fellow employees, your personal friends on your downtime, or even talking to HR, it’s important that you practice self-care.

Workplace Discrimination Against Diabetics

People who don’t understand diabetes may discriminate against coworkers because of it. People may make jokes, comments, and you may feel isolated because of your condition if you’re the only one at your work with diabetes. Your employer might even set the tone for this behavior by refusing to make reasonable accommodations for your condition at work.

If you believe that you are the victim of workplace discrimination due to your diabetes, you should speak to an employment lawyer about your rights, and whether you may be able to take action against your employer.

According to Los Angeles employment attorney Eric A. Panitz, “Many employers find their diabetic employees are gone two or three days a week, for hours at a time, to attend dialysis treatments. For employers, this is a very expensive problem because although they are legally required to continue to accommodate employees who need this type of accommodation, they don’t want to.”

Employers in such a predicament will often find an excuse to fire diabetic employees. Fortunately, says Panitz, “The good news for employees who suffer from diabetes is this: your job is protected from this kind of employer discrimination, and juries are very generous to this type of plaintiff, because the employee is able and wants to work, but just needs medical treatment.”

Taking Positive Action

Employees with diabetes face a number challenges in the workplace such as maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, managing symptoms and complications, and facing diabetes discrimination. It is important to practice self-care and seek support to successfully manage your diabetes and overcome these challenges.

Remember, employers have a legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with diabetes, even though discrimination and wrongful termination can and still do occur. So if you believe you are being discriminated against at work, you should reach out to an employment lawyer to protect your employment rights.

Categories: Health

Nicolas Desjardins

Hello everyone, I am the main writer for SIND Canada. I've been writing articles for more than 12 years and I like sharing my knowledge. I'm currently writing for many websites and newspapers. I always keep myself very informed to give you the best information. All my years as a computer scientist made me become an incredible researcher. You can contact me on our forum or by email at [email protected].