Task Force to Raise Awareness for Truckers with Diabetes

It is every driver’s nightmare.  A trucker in charge of an 18-wheel juggernaut is taken ill at the wheel and loses consciousness, leaving his monster vehicle to go its way and cause devastation.  This is a worst-case scenario, but statistics suggest it may not be very farfetched, as truck drivers have a poor record for keeping on top of their diabetes and maintaining their blood sugar levels.

Now a new diabetes task force is being set up to tackle the problem of truck drivers who as a class are less likely to be quickly diagnosed and less likely to be treated or to manage their diabetes.

Diabetes may manifest in two common forms, with type 1 usually being diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood.  This type will require regular injections of insulin so the patient can lead a normal life.  However, type 2 is likely to affect a truck driver, especially as these people typically lead quite sedentary lives behind the wheel and are prone to eat unhealthy truck stop foods and overindulge from boredom or loneliness on their long routes.

Type 2 diabetes may go undiagnosed for years because the symptoms may be mild, and complications may already have begun to develop by the time the patient seeks medical advice.  These can include sight problems, which could also affect a driver, and even a danger of passing out as blood sugar levels fluctuate from the norm.

Insulin dependent diabetics are not allowed to drive unless they apply for a special exemption, but many type 2 diabetics are not insulin dependent, and the law does not ask for blood testing of these people.

Now members of the American Diabetes Association and others in the medical community are joining forces to set up a task force to draw up recommendations for diabetic truckers and other drivers.  These are likely to include regular blood testing to monitor existing diabetes and pick up any new cases. – up to half of diabetic drivers may not know they have the disease.  They may also standardize procedures for examiners who do medical drivers’ check-ups.  At the current time, the examination may include blood tests or it may not, so many cases may still not be diagnosed

Undiagnosed diabetes could be a threat to other road users if the diabetic driver’s blood sugar levels started to fall without his realizing.  Low blood sugar in a diabetic can lead to mental confusion and even to loss of consciousness – disastrous if he is driving a vehicle.  However, the disease can also cause harm to the patient if it is left untreated because he is not aware that he has it.  Untreated diabetes is likely to lead to some of the serious side effects of this disease, which are much less likely in a diabetic who is taking medication and controlling his symptoms.  These heart and kidney disease and damage to other organs, nerve damage, which can lead to gangrene, and blindness as the disease causes damage to blood vessels in the eyes.

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