Reaching Towards Remission: How Diabetes Treatment Protects Employees with Diabetes from Complications

A diabetes diagnosis can feel like a heavy burden for the patient, their family, and their employer — and as diagnoses and drug needs increase, it has become a disease state that needs increased attention for the impact it can have on an employer’s pharmacy benefit plan. But beyond the perceived burden of a diabetes diagnosis, it’s important for employers to focus on the positive impact treatment can have on the physical and mental side effects of the condition. Knowing how employees with diabetes can proactively reduce their risk of serious complications can bring hope and savings to all involved.

Untreated diabetes causes consistent injury to the heart and kidneys. Complications can include increased risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, damage to nerves, infection risk, dental health problems, an increased need for mental health services, and gastrointestinal impacts. There’s a larger chance for stroke, cardiovascular events, and chronic kidney diseases for members with diabetes.

The compounding impact of continual excess sugar in the body accumulates over time when a member has uncontrolled diabetes, which is when it becomes more likely that extremities or eyes may be impacted by the disease.  An increase in diabetes diagnoses for young and old COVID-19 patients is accompanied by a higher risk of blood clot issues, heart attack, and stroke, according to the latest research.

Diabetes doesn’t only impact your physical health; it can significantly impact your mental health. According to the CDC, people with diabetes are two to three times more likely to have depression. This can be exacerbated by patients who are not adequately controlling their diabetes, as one study demonstrated an increase in quality of life for patients who realized a decrease in their A1C.

When blood sugar levels become too high or too low, people with diabetes may experience severe symptoms and need to go to the emergency room or the hospital. These visits brought on by hypo- or hyperglycemia associated with diabetes can be for a heart attack, stroke, infection, or fall.

These negative outcomes can feel like inevitabilities for members with diabetes until you see the impact of treatment on diabetes and the associated problems. What would happen if a patient took control of their diabetes today? Whether it is the day of diagnosis or 15 years into their fight with the disease, a change in behavior or medication can help a patient with diabetes steer away from the associated risks.

Can diabetes be put into remission?

The current diagnostic standard for diabetes is an A1C test — a test that measures a patient’s average blood sugar levels over the past three months. An A1C level of 6.5% or above indicates diabetes. But a patient’s lifestyle, diet, and medications can put them below that threshold, making the complications of diabetes drastically less likely. With yearly tests and checkups, these patients can be monitored in case intervention is needed. “Diabetes remission may be occurring more often due to advances in treatment,” Amy Rothberg of the University of Michigan told the American Diabetes Association.

When a patient reduces their A1C by just one percent, healthcare costs go down by 13 percent, according to a study on the risk and cost associated with a patient with diabetes and their medication adherence. When working to support an employee with diabetes, think beyond just medical markers like the A1C to the whole person working through this disease on a day-to-day basis. They may need increased mental health support as the country emerges from the pandemic and finds increasing diabetes diagnoses to be the new normal.

Get a helping hand

Simply knowing why it’s important to act, and what actions to take, isn’t enough – employees with diabetes may feel too defeated to fight their diagnosis, or they may forget to take their medication or be cautious about their eating. A key component to success for these patients is support.

Employers should have the tools they need to build a supportive environment for their employees with diabetes. From creating a healthy office environment to providing programs focused on proactive outreach to patients with diabetes, employers can lend a helping hand to their employees who need it, and all involved can find the inspiration they need to make a difference for each patient and the plan.


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