Nearly one-third of Americans have diabetes or prediabetes and about 1.5 million new cases are diagnosed each year in individuals of all ages. When you consider the loss of productivity, the cost of medicine and medical treatment, and loss of income, the cost of diabetes is high. Unfortunately, some insurance providers don’t make it easy for doctors or patients to manage diabetes and prevent serious illness. Learn more about qualifying for long-term disability for diabetes below.
In general terms, diabetes is a disorder affecting the way your body processes and uses sugar. Insulin is produced by your pancreas and its job is to process sugar from the food you eat and convert it to the energy. When this process breaks down, you may experience short and long-term health problems.
Prediabetes occurs when your blood sugar levels are not normal and is a precursor to full-blown diabetes. Some people refer to prediabetes as borderline diabetes or hyperglycemia. Whichever name you choose, it means your body is not producing enough insulin to properly regulate your blood sugar level.
Symptoms include frequent urination, shortness of breath, fruity-smelling breath, rapid heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, increased thirst, and persistent dry mouth. You can help manage your blood sugar and prevent the development of diabetes by eating a low-carb, low-sugar diet.
Formerly known as juvenile diabetes, Type 1 diabetes can develop at any age and isn’t related to your diet. It develops when your pancreas doesn’t produce any insulin. Or when it produces so little insulin that your blood sugar cannot be processed properly.
Individuals with Type 1 diabetes need injections of insulin to make up for what their bodies don’t produce. Some people need a pump to deliver a constant flow of insulin. Other people inject insulin they need before each meal.
This is the most common type of diabetes. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, your body produces insulin but it isn’t used properly. Type 2 diabetes is also referred to as insulin resistance and it can worsen over time.
If insulin is not processed properly, high levels of sugar can build up in your blood, and without proper treatment, could result in a disease called ketoacidosis (DKA), which is a life-threatening condition. Without the sugar it needs, your body begins to break down fat too quickly and produces a poisonous waste called ketones.
Symptoms of hyperglycemia or high blood sugar include fatigue, headaches, confusion, heart palpitations, shakiness, and dizziness. High blood sugar, low blood sugar, and DKA can all result in a diabetic coma, which requires immediate medical treatment and could be fatal.
When individuals with diabetes manage the disease with a combination of diet and exercise, most diabetics don’t qualify for long-term disability benefits, whether through group or individual insurance plans.
Over time, unstable blood sugar levels can affect your body in other ways. Diabetes can damage your nervous system, your heart, and kidneys. Neuropathy, nerve damage, develops when the capillaries, the tiny blood vessels that feed your nerves are damaged. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, and burning, especially in your arms and legs. Without treatment, neuropathy can cause you to lose the use of your limbs, damage your digestive system and interfere with normal sexual function.
Diabetes can damage the nerves and blood vessels around your heart causing heart attacks, strokes, or coronary artery disease. Diabetes increases the chances of heart problems and sufferers may need long-term disability benefits to care for themselves properly.
Your kidneys filter out the impurities from your body and can be damaged by high levels of ketones. Blood vessels can also be damaged leading to the need for a kidney transplant or regular kidney dialysis.
Diabetes can also affect vision and hearing, cause or exacerbate depression, contribute to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, encourage the development of dry, itchy skin, and skin tags. Damaged blood vessels can result in poor circulation and an increased risk of amputation of toes and feet.
Given the seriousness of diabetes and its effects on our bodies, access to long-term disability benefits can provide the resources you need to manage your diabetes and stay healthy.
Unfortunately, some insurers wrongfully deny, delay, or terminate benefits by classifying diabetes as a pre-existing condition. This is particularly problematic if you receive your insurance benefits through your employer since these policies are not transferrable from job to job.