Diabetes Law and Legal Definition

Diabetes is a life-long disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood. It can be caused by too little insulin (a hormone produced by the pancreas to regulate blood sugar), resistance to insulin, or both. People with diabetes have high blood glucose. This is because their pancreas does not make enough insulin or their muscle, fat, and liver cells do not respond to insulin normally, or both.

There are three major types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in childhood. The body makes little or no insulin, and daily injections of insulin are required to sustain life. Without proper daily management, medical emergencies can arise.
  • Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1 and makes up 90% or more of all cases of diabetes. It usually occurs in adulthood. In this type of diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to maintain normal blood glucose levels, often because the body does not respond well to the insulin. Many people with type 2 diabetes are not aware they have it, although it is a serious condition. Type 2 diabetes is becoming more common due to the growing number of older Americans, increasing obesity, and lack of exercise.
  • Gestational diabetes is high blood glucose that develops at any time during pregnancy in a person who does not have diabetes.

Maintaining a healthy body weight and an active lifestyle may prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes. Currently there is no way to prevent type 1 diabetes.

Under federal law, diabetes is a disability when it substantially limits one or more of a person's major life activities, such as eating or caring for oneself. Even if diabetes is currently controlled by diet, exercise, oral medication, and/or insulin, and has no serious side effects, the condition may be a disability because of limitations in the past before it was diagnosed and treated. Diabetes is also a disability when it does not significantly affect a person's everyday activities, but the employer treats the individual as if it does, such as assuming a person with diabetes isn't qualified to preform a job. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the determination of whether an individual has a disability is made on a case-by-case basis. The ADA applies to all states.