diabetes and driving

For Owl.

Every year, World Diabetes Day is celebrated on November 14. The purpose of the date is to raise awareness about the impact that diabetes has on health and highlight the importance of its diagnosis, prevention and treatment. Diabetes can have effects on road safety. Although they are usually two worlds that are not very related.

Frederick Banting, the physician who discovered insulin, was born on November 14, 1891. Between 1921 and 1922, together with Charles Best, they carried out a series of experiments, first with dogs and then with humans that allowed them to isolate insulin and test its effects in people affected by diabetes. Frederic Banting won the Nobel Prize for his discovery together with John Macleod, the head of his laboratory. Although a prize like the Nobel highlights the figure of one or two people, insulin could not have been discovered without the accumulation of findings over time about the role of the pancreas in digestion that had begun many years before, in 1869, with the discovery of the islets of Langerhans, the cells of the pancreas that produce it. Insulin is a hormone that allows glucose from the food and drinks we consume to pass from the blood into the cells. Insulin sends a signal that activates glucose transporters that cross the cell walls to take up glucose. Its metabolization converts it into energy. Glucose is the most important source of energy for the body. It is essential for any activity, to work, to exercise, to think and to repair the organs.

People with diabetes have a complete lack of insulin, have very little or cannot use it well. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system kills the cells that make insulin. Over time the body does not produce more. The symptoms are quick and clear when the problem originates, something that usually occurs at an early age. Between five and ten people out of every hundred with diabetes have type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most widespread. In this case the body cannot use the insulin properly. Over time the pancreas can produce less and less.

Its onset usually occurs after the age of forty and is related to lifestyle. Overweight, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and a genetic background are risk factors. Symptoms develop gradually. Epidemiological data indicate that one in ten people in Argentina have diabetes. Because it is under-diagnosed, that number could go up to four in ten.

Diabetes can cause acute metabolic problems such as hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. In the first case it is low glucose concentrations. In the second the situation is reversed. Hypoglycemia can affect vision, some cognitive functions and general orientation. Hyperglycemia has similar effects. In addition, it can cause life-threatening events such as diabetic ketoacidosis or nonketotic hyperosmolar syndrome. Without going to that extreme, metabolic problems can produce reactions that affect the performance of drivers. Severe hypoglycemia can cause sudden loss of consciousness. However, most hypoglycemias are moderate. Certain alarm symptoms are tremors, palpitations and sweating. However, some individuals are unable to recognize that a hypoglycemic episode is taking place. Although it does not lead to the extreme of losing consciousness, hypoglycemia can cause difficulties concentrating, lack of coordination, visual difficulties and dizziness. Hypoglycemia can slow reaction times, slow down performing complex tasks, slow visual processing and detection of complex visual stimuli, difficulty sustaining attention, reduced hand-eye coordination, mental confusion , and difficulties controlling anger and irritability. Eating high-carbohydrate foods and beverages can reverse hypoglycemia fairly quickly.

Having diabetes has been linked to a higher risk of crash than not having the condition. However, the difference is small and does not justify restrictions in granting them a driver’s license. Prevention is important but not common. Education and training to detect episodes of hypoglycemia in the context of traffic, its effects and how to act in such cases are useful tools. Involving doctors and health personnel in this task can be a good initiative. The exam moments to obtain or renew the driver’s license are also.

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diabetes and driving