Diabetes Mellitus


Diabetes mellitus (DM), also known as ‘sugar diabetes’ or simply, ‘diabetes,’ encompasses a group of metabolic diseases in which high blood sugar levels are sustained over a prolonged period of time. It is due to either the pancreas not producing enough insulin, or the cells of the body not responding properly to the insulin produced. Symptoms produced by high blood sugar include frequent urination, increased thirst, and increased hunger. Untreated or poorly controlled diabetes can cause many complications. Acute complications include diabetic ketoacidosis and non-ketotic hyperosmolar coma. Long-term complications include heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, foot ulcers, and damage to the eyes.

General information

There are three main types of diabetes mellitus.

  • Type I DM, which results from your body’s failure to produce enough insulin. This form was previously referred to as “insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus,” or “juvenile diabetes.” The cause is unknown.
  • Type II DM, which begins with insulin resistance, a condition in which your cells fail to respond to insulin properly. As the disease progresses, a lack of insulin also may develop. This form was previously referred to as “non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus,” or “adult-onset diabetes.” The primary cause is excessive body weight and not enough exercise.
  • Gestational diabetes, which occurs when a pregnant woman, without a previous history of diabetes, develops a high blood glucose level.

In 2013, an estimated 382 million people worldwide had diabetes. This is equal to 8.3% of the adult population with equal rates in both women and men.  While the number of people with diabetes is expected to rise to 592 million by 2035, the good news is that medical science has made significant advances in detecting endocrine disorders at earlier stages. Newer treatments have resulted in better management of these conditions, and research suggests that lifestyle changes, alone, can prevent or delay the onset of Type II DM, which makes up about 90% of diabetes cases.

Social Security Administration –Evaluating DM as a disability

On June 7, 2011, the Social Security Administration removed endocrine disorders, including DM, from its Listing of Impairments used to evaluate disability. Currently, if you have an endocrine disorder that prevents you from sustaining full time work for a year or longer, you must meet the requirements of another listing. For example:

  • Amputations can be evaluated under musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Diabetic nephropathy can be evaluated under genitourinary listings.
  • Peripheral neuropathy can be evaluated under neurological disorders.

Most endocrine disorders do not reach ‘listing-level severity’ because they do not become sufficiently severe or do not remain at a sufficient level of severity long enough to meet the 12-month duration requirement. However, the Social Security Administration recognizes that endocrine disorders may produce significant functional limitations. Therefore, if you have an endocrine disorder that prevents you from engaging in substantial gainful activity for 12 months or more, you may be able to obtain disability benefits.

Your representative can help you determine whether your diabetes is severe enough to qualify disability benefits under the requirements of the Social Security Administration.