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Diabetes Type 2

Managing diabetes at work and driving

Many people we talked to continued to work after being diagnosed with diabetes. Support from employers in being flexible about working hours and the Access to Work scheme in providing equipment helped several people to continue working.

 

Tina's employers are very supportive and Access to Work have provided her with a special camera...

Tina's employers are very supportive and Access to Work have provided her with a special camera...

Age at interview: 45
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 33
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I've got some equipment which Access to Work have given, you know, sort of bought and paid for. Well it's also my employer who pays for some of it, and then my Access to Work pay for all the rest of it. So I've got equipment in place which enables me to do my job yeah. Which is computer- based mainly but a lot reading in my job which is what I struggled with, but I know have a CCTV sort of camera next on my desk, which allows me to read.

Does it mean you read more slowly?

I'm incredibly [slow], [laughs] I read incredibly slowly now, yes.
 

Sometimes the type of work people did make it hard for them to keep working, especially if their job was physically demanding. People who had neuropathy (nerve damage) in their feet found it difficult to continue doing jobs which required walking long distances or standing for long periods of time. One man, who was a paramedic, said he took early retirement when he started taking insulin because he didn't want to be driving at high speed. A hairdresser found it hard to find time to eat properly and after developing neuropathy could no longer stand on her feet all day. Eating at the right time takes extra care and planning when working in a physically demanding job.

 

Duncan has no problem working and driving for long hours but his neuropathy means that walking to...

Duncan has no problem working and driving for long hours but his neuropathy means that walking to...

Age at interview: 63
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 61
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It has affected my future plans. I mean I still' My job as a careers advisor, I mean I still do it. You know, I mean, possibly, I don't know, I did five days last week, five days the week before that, although I found that a bit much. But I think that is more that - you know probably thirty years ago I would have found interviewing eight people a day, and writing out reports for five days a week probably a bit much - I don't think that has got anything to do with diabetes. I mean the week before I had to, I was suddenly called to go and help out at Dover and I had to get up at four in the morning, leave at five, drive round the motorway 150 miles to Dover, work for five hours and drive back and I didn't have any trouble with that - so to that extent it is okay.

But it's just that walking any distance is'Well, I don't know whether it is because I haven't been walking much because of my feet, but now walking much is difficult anyway. So it has had a big effect in that respect. It has certainly had a big affect on my future plans. It probably hasn't affected day to day all that much. I mean the main thing was when I couldn't drive for periods, because I mean [the village] is a bit, sorry this place is a bit isolated, but you know there are buses I managed perfectly ok, but I... Distance would be difficult... To go any great distance without it being a hassle, and I do rely on my car.

 

While working as a paramedic, Gareth always made sure he had food or money with him, so that he...

While working as a paramedic, Gareth always made sure he had food or money with him, so that he...

Age at interview: 61
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 50
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I was working yeah, and even know I made sure I had sandwiches if I was going out like, because you never can tell in Ambulance Service like we done at times, I'd go to work in [town] and we ended up going to [city]. Taking a transfer so, you know, you always had to be ready to go, and you know, so there was a couple of things I always made sure, is that I had i.e. a biscuit or something like that, to go with and also that I had money. Because I always had money, just in case I had to buy some food whatever we got. Because if you went to [city], you're talking about three hour journey, so you know you need to eat. Even in the middle of the night you needed to eat because it wasn't just one to five. You could go at any time.

And there were times when we would come to the end of the shift and we had a red call, and the red call was a transfer to London, and you've got to go, so instead of working say, as it was eight or twelve hour shifts then, you'd be there working twelve, sixteen hours. And whilst it's not right, but these were the conditions that you had to work in because you couldn't get anybody else to take them, because everybody else was working at the same type of shift and you would have to go, especially if somebody needed a child going up to Great Ormond Street or anything like this, or somebody going for a liver transplant, you had to go with it, and you can't say, 'Oh I can't go. I've got to have something to eat.' You had to get up and go straightaway.
 

However desk-based jobs can also cause problems for people with diabetes. Some people whose eyes were affected said that they found reading difficult, particularly reading from a computer screen. One man said he had become more sensitive to fluorescent lights at work and he felt it created tensions amongst his colleagues that he needed to have the lights turned off.

 

Andy works in IT and now finds it hard to read from the computer screen which is stressful.

Andy works in IT and now finds it hard to read from the computer screen which is stressful.

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 52
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The most difficult thing for me workwise, forget the getting over the side effects of the tablets, that's just a period of uncomfortableness; stomach aches and all the rest of it, it's the fact that I work on computers, and I can't read the computer screen. My eyesight is either going from long sighted to short sighted or its in between, and I'm just struggling to focus on the computer screen. I'm sitting about this far from the computer screen. I'm taking my glasses off. I'm constantly having to adjust where I sit and how I how I adapt to the screen and it's just a nightmare. It's the most difficult thing. You go to meetings and I sometimes I'm writing like that, sometimes I'm writing like that and trying to take notes. And someone says, 'Come and look at this on the screen', and I can't because I can't read it. I have to sort of stick my head in front of theirs.

And I'm also, we've got an awful lot of fluorescent lights at work and I've found that I've become very much more sensitive to the fluorescent lights, so I have to upset all my neighbours by having the lights turned off where I sit. Whereas everybody else likes it nice and bright, I don't want it bright. So it creates little tensions and little niggles.

Some people felt that there were times when they were less productive at work, either because of a rise in blood glucose levels or general fatigue.

 

Andy says that people at work don't understand diabetes and how it affects him. His working day...

Andy says that people at work don't understand diabetes and how it affects him. His working day...

Age at interview: 52
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 52
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My fear now that I've never had before, is that if the company I work make me redundant for whatever reason because, you know, economies being, economics being what they are, companies do that kind of thing. Because not only do I have chronic pain but I now have diabetes, I now have hypertension, I now have depression - all these things - I won't be able to get another job' Not because I'm not capable, but because I'll be viewed as too much of a risk.

I have one of the best sickness records at work. I have so little time off compared to other people. Every few years I have a lot of time off because of orthopaedic things, and then I'll go for three or four years without even having a day off for a cold' That won't be taken into account. You know, 'Oh you had three months off last year for diabetes, why - it's only a sugar thing isn't it?' People don't understand what it is. They don't understand that you can't see, you can't think, you know, you spend a lot of time asleep. They don't understand that now with diabetes you're not processing your food so you don't get the energy, you haven't got the energy level that you had before. You fatigue a lot more.

My work pattern used to be I'd get to work about 6 o'clock in the morning and I would work through sort of 4 -half 4 something like that. When I was diagnosed as diabetic the first thing work said you can't come to work that early, we can't have you in the office, you have to, you can't come in before 7 o'clock, when other people start to arrive at work. You can't work late into the evenings. You cannot be in the office alone' Which is fair enough. So it means I'm spending less time at work but not only am I spending less time at work, but I'm also less productive when I'm at work, I'm less effective. So it's a bit of a double whammy. So I've had to come to terms with the fact that from now on, you know high let's try and back track and down grade to having a job. Get rid of the stress.

 

Occasionally Lawrence's blood glucose is very high which makes him feel sluggish in the mornings...

Occasionally Lawrence's blood glucose is very high which makes him feel sluggish in the mornings...

Age at interview: 38
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 37
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Not, not the work itself affecting my diabetes, but the diabetes influencing my physical condition and as a result that now and then I mean you can't escape it, now and then your sugar levels will, you know, kick in and rise. I just, I don't know how it works but maybe just a physical thing but, but it does kick in now and then, I mean maybe once or so every three or four months and, and you will get a morning that you will wake up and your sugar level is very high - it might even be like eight or nine - and so you're struggling for strength, at the begin, in the starting part of the day, so you know you're a bit sluggish at work. But through the course of the day I've found that by about midday, and it's cleared up, I don't know, but it, it will have cleared up, and, and then I pick up pace. So if it does catch up with me it's normally in the early part of the day, usually around the, the, eight, nine, ten o'clock in the morning, and then it tapers off by about eleven I can find my strength coming back. I think also in terms of work I, I'm blessed to have a very understanding boss, and, you know, he understands that I have this problem so he's very, very supportive and he knows that at times when I'm sluggish, I'm not sluggish by, by choice but it's, it's a situation that's there, and he accommodates me a lot and then, you know, I pick up pace again as we go through the day. So yeah my work does get affected but, in the mornings when I, you know when I struggle a little bit, but that's something you know you learn to expect.

A few people were concerned that they might have difficulty getting another job if they needed to. Although many people with diabetes would not consider themselves disabled, diabetes is listed in the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) which protects people with disabilities from being treated differently to other employees. Advice about workplace rights are availble from the Equality Advisory Support Service.

Driving and diabetes type 2
You may need to tell DVLA (Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency) about your diabetes, depending on how it’s treated and the licence you have.

If you drive a car or motorbike and your diabetes is treated by diet or tablets you don't have to do anything. If you have a bus, coach or lorry licence you must fill in form DIAB1 and send it to DVLA.

If your diabetes is treated by insulin all drivers by law must inform the DVLA. 

Last reviewed March 2016.

Last updated March 2016..

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