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Type 2 Diabetes Causes Brain Shrinkage, Potential Workplace Complications

Blood Test Device

May 1, 2014

A recent study published in the journal Radiology and covered by TIME claims that Type 2 diabetes and high blood sugar may cause problems with an individual's brain tissue, including shrinkage and rapid degeneration. The study, which was conducted by examining the brains of 614 people suffering from varying stages of the disease, showed that diabetes not only has a detrimental effect on brain tissue, but may accelerate brain damage as the disease itself progresses.

The University of Pennsylvania's Dr. R. Nick Bryan and his team of scientists used the results to determine that the brains of patients with Type 2 diabetes look two years older for every decade they suffer from the disease, compared to similar-age patients without it. This essentially means that those who suffer from Type 2 diabetes have brains that age faster, potentially leading to additional complications down the road.

"We found that diabetic patients have two strikes on the brain. There is the vascular effect, and now it looks as if there is a neurodegenerative insult on the brain too," Bryan told Time.

According to Tech Times, glucose imbalances caused by diabetes can decrease how much oxygen reaches the brain, leading to atrophy. And while everyone loses a certain percentage of brain matter per year, research now shows that those with Type 2 diabetes lose brain matter at twice the normal rate.

"It'd been thought that most, if not all, of the effect of diabetes on the brain was due to vascular disease that diabetics get and, therefore, stroke. We found that in addition to that, there's sort of diffuse loss of brain tissue, atrophy… we think may [be] a direct effect of the diabetes on the brain." Bryan explained to Fox News.

Type 2 diabetes can also cause specific workplace complications, since those who suffer from the disease must often adhere to a specific schedule to maintain optimum health. In addition, diabetes sufferers who take insulin may require a work schedule that allows them to effectively regulate their blood sugar.

Unfortunately, employees who have these requirements may have difficulty finding an employer who can accommodate them. For example, HR.BLR.com recently outlined the case of a Kohl's Department Store employee in Maine whose doctor suggested she work regular shifts in order to control her diabetes symptoms. Because Kohl's employees are required to have "open availability," meaning that they must be able to work any shift on any day, the employee's erratic work hours had become a problem. Ultimately, the employee filed a lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming that her rights as an employee with a disability had been violated. Even though the case was eventually dropped, it highlighted the need for businesses to explore new ways to accommodate employees who suffer from the disease.


Compiled by Holly Johnson

Sources:

"Diabetes Ages the Brain by Two Years, Says Study," time.com, April 29, 2014, Alice Park, http://time.com/77874/diabetes-ages-brain-by-two-years/

"Diabetes in the workplace: Lessons from a recent court ruling," hr.blr.com, April 28, 2014, Connor Beatty, http://hr.blr.com/HR-news/Discrimination/Disabilities-ADA/Diabetes-in-the-workplace-Lessons-from-a-recent-co

"Type 2 diabetes associated with brain degeneration, study finds," foxnews.com, April 29, 2014, Nicole Kwan, http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/04/29/type-2-diabetes-associated-with-brain-degeneration-study-finds/

"Type 2 diabetes linked to brain shrinkage, warns study," techtimes.com, April 30, 2014, James Maynard, http://www.techtimes.com/articles/6288/20140430/type-2-diabetes-linked-to-brain-shrinkage-warns-study.htm

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