There are many types of diabetes, and the prevalence of all types is increasing. The most common are Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational Diabetes. 

In Type 1 Diabetes, which accounts for about 10% of all cases, the body is unable to produce enough insulin for the body’s needs due to an auto-immune reaction that damages the pancreas. Symptoms often develop over a short period of time and are very noticeable. Daily insulin injections or an insulin pump are required to provide the body the insulin it requires to function well.

Type 2 Diabetes, which accounts for about 85% of all cases, develops over time when the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas. The onset of type 2 diabetes is slower than type 1, and the symptoms more subtle. Modifiable risk factors such as lack of exercise, poor diet, and smoking are all associated with increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes occurs during pregnancy. Most women will no longer have diabetes after the baby is born. However, some women will continue to have high blood glucose levels after delivery. Gestational diabetes is the fastest growing type of diabetes in Australia, with between 12% and 14% of pregnant women developing gestational diabetes (usually around 24 to 28 weeks). All pregnant women should be tested for gestational diabetes.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Excessive thirst with the need to urinate regularly
  • Feeling tired and lethargic more easily than before
  • Constant hunger
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Itching and skin infections, particularly on the extremities
  • Blurry vision
  • Gradual weight gain
  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Leg cramps.

Potential impact on daily life and employment

  • Diagnosis may have an emotional impact on an individual
  • The need to eat and take medication (particularly injections) at regular times to manage blood sugar levels
  • People with diabetes may experience “hypos” which can cause hunger, sweatiness, dizziness, difficulty with concentration, trembling or changes in mood
  • Working a rotating shift pattern may not always be suitable. For example, a job where the lunch break is at midday one day and 3pm the next day could make it difficult to maintain blood sugar levels
  • Long term complications may include blindness, heart disease, kidney failure or the need for amputation.

Support in the workplace

  • Provision for planned regular meals or medication should be built into working patterns
  • If the individual controls their diabetes by using injections, ensure that use is in line with drug related policies that may exist in the workplace. Where this is the case, the individual would normally have access to a clean room facility and sharps disposal 
  • Understand how well the individual manages the condition, or how stable it is
  • Ask about ‘hypos’ – does the individual carry glucose sweets etc. What do they want workplace colleagues to do if they have a ‘hypo’?
  • Ensure that a first aid officer is appointed in the workplace and that they are trained in supporting the individual should they experience a ‘hypo’
  • Provide aids or adaptations if required, such as text enhancing software for low vision (see Low Vision section for further details).

280 Australians develop diabetes everyday - that’s one person every five minutes. Around 1.7 million Australians have diabetes.

Source; Diabetes Australia statistics

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