Is Diabetes a Disability?


To many people, ‘Is diabetes a disability?‘ is a loaded question of interest that needs a proper and detailed answer. To give an answer, it is best to approach it both from the legal angle and from the medical/clinical perspective. It is right here to say that the answers we provide here apply to the two most common types of diabetes, that is, type 1 and type 2.

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How the Law views Diabetes and Disability

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 A. Yes, Diabetes Is a Disability

Most of the laws regard diabetes type 1 and type 2 as a disability but only on one condition. It has to be a medicated diabetes in which the sufferer is on treatment. Taking insulin in the case of type 1 or other forms of medication in the case of type 2 is enough. The Disability Act will then be applicable to protect such category of diabetics. They are free from discrimination of all sorts.

B.  No, Diabetes Is Not a Disability

Under certain conditions, the Law does not protect some diabetics under Disability Act. A sufferer who is not on medication but through avoidance or coping strategy has reduced his or her blood glucose to the goal level is not disabled. They are not disabled, especially if they are in a position to carry out their duties. This means they are suitable for employment like any other person.

Medical/Clinical Views on Diabetes and Disability

There is enough medical information providing an answer to question: Is Diabetes a Disability?

Uncontrolled diabetes often leads to some complications. It can be eye or vision problems(retinopathy). It can be nerve problems(neuropathy), kidney diseases(nephropathy) or physical damage(stroke). When any of these occurs, there are types of disabilities it can cause to the diabetic.

a. Physical or Severe Disability

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One of the complications of uncontrolled diabetes is stroke. Anyone attacked can suffer a permanent disability. Under this condition, the diabetic can no longer work. Indeed he or she takes the position of having a zero or low Residual Functional Capacity(RFC).

b. Intellectual or Learning Disability

Alex Sennuga

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition where the back of the eye, retina, has been damaged. It is one of the complications of long suffering of diabetes. When such complication is not arrested early, it can result in blindness. A blind person will not be able to read or write. Thus he or she will be qualifying under learning or intellectual disability.

c. Diabetic Nephropathy

Alex Sennuga A diabetic complication can cause a damage to the human kidney.

This is diabetic nephropathy. It would limit the functioning of the kidney. In more serious cases, it can cause total kidney failure. Of course a person with a failed kidney can no longer work. In other words his or her residual functional capacity(RFC) is now very limited. His or her condition then falls within Disability category.

Bottom line: Although most laws tend to protect all forms of diabetes as a disability, a more intellectual and legal view has been taken recently. The protection no longer applies to cases where a diabetic is not on medication. Some diabetics through lifestyle and diet changes are able to reverse their diabetes. They then come off medical prescriptions on a permanent basis. Such people are not protected under Disability Act.

In my own view using the above discussion, an answer to the question: Is Diabetes a Disability? would be more of Yes and to a little extent, No.

But diabetes that has caused complications is a special case. When a zero or low level of residual functional capacity(RFC) occurs, disability is confirmed.

Please share your knowledge or views on the comments section.

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