Info on Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune condition
where the immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells
in the pancreas. Type 1 Diabetes is usually found in children and
teenagers, hence formerly known as "juvenile diabetes. Older
people can also be diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, but less commonly.
Symptoms of undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes include lethargy, raging
thirst, passing excessive amounts of water, weight-loss and blurred
vision. These symptoms are often acute. After diagnosis, insulin
must be injected to regulate blood sugars. Type 1 Diabetes also
used to be known as insulin dependent diabetes because
insulin injections were required as soon as diagnosis had been made.
Type 2 diabetes occurs predominantly when
the body gradually utilizes insulin less efficiently insulin
resistance - and usually occurs in middle age, hence formerly known
as as "mature onset diabetes. Symptoms are the same as Type
1 above, but usually less acute. The more gradual onset is why people
may have Type 2 diabetes for several years before being diagnosed,
and this is when internal organ damage can occur. Type 2 diabetes
can be regulated with changes in diet alone (with less intake of
bulk-sugar or carbohydrate in general) or if diet change alone is
insufficient, or becomes insufficient, oral medication can be taken
to stimulate insulin production or increase insulin efficiency.
Some people with Type 2 Diabetes may eventually go on to inject
Blood Sugar Control
The aim for all people with diabetes is good blood sugar control
in order to avoid long-term health complications as outlined above.
A short term risk for individuals with Type 1 Diabetes and Type
Diabetes on certain medications is that blood sugar levels can reduce
to hypoglycaemic (or "hypo") levels which lead to a number
of symptoms including sweatiness, dizziness, impaired judgement
and in the worst case to loss of consciousness without warning.
Regular testing of blood sugar levels can reduce the risk of going
The aim of individuals
with Type 1 Diabetes and those with Type 2 Diabetes on certain medication/insulin,
is to maintain blood sugars within a range which can avoid the short-term
risk of low blood sugars (hypoglycemia, or "hypos") and
long-term organ damage from higher than normal blood sugars (hyperglycemia).
This requires a balance of insulin,
diet and exercise combined with frequent blood sugar testing and
regular patient health monitoring by medical practitioners. Blood
tests normally require a drop of blood being deposited on a test-strip
already inserted into a battery-powered blood glucose meter. Depending
on the type of blood glucose meter, an accurate sugar-level reading
can be produced within as little as 5 seconds.
More on "Hypos"
Hypos can occur if a meal is delayed after
injecting insulin or if an
abnormally high level of exercise is taken. Symptoms of hypos can
come in many forms including sweating, light-headedness, nausea,
irritability, impaired thought process and speech and in some cases
a loss of consciousness, even without warning. Each individual's
type and intensity of warning symptoms differ. Over time, individuals
become familiar with how well their regime of diet, insulin and
exercise works. Frequent blood sugar testing is extremely important
in this process. While some individuals may find it difficult to
control blood sugars, others can run "tight" blood sugar
control while avoiding both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.
More on Hyperglycemia
Long term organ damage from hyperglycemia
includes blindness, heart disease complications, kidney failure
and nerve damage in limbs which in turn can lead to amputation.
Hyperglycemia may occur if too little insulin is present in the
bloodstream, larger than normal amounts of food are ingested and/or
less exercise is taken. The stress of illness such as flu can increase
blood sugar levels. If left neglected, shorter-term symptoms of
hyperglycemia can include dehydration, blurred vision and increased
levels of skin infections.
For more information:
Diabetes Institute (IDI)
Flying in the US
In the US a normal Class 3 medical test is taken. Additional medical
records and tests are required and results must meet requirements
for an individual's history of health and diabetes (sugar) control
in the US. The Class 3 medical is not valid outside the borders
of the US and is valid for one year only. This in turn allows solo
flying for training and exercising the privileges of a Private Pilot
Licence (PPL). To ensure safe flight, the pilot must adhere to pre-flight
and in-flight blood sugar testing requirements that include a test
half an hour prior to flying, each hour into a flight, and half
an hour prior to landing. A Type 1 Diabetic pilot must keep sugar
levels within a given range and if this is not achieved, guidelines
are given for subsequent action e.g. ingest a minimum amount of
sugar, or land if blood levels are above a certain level.
Flying in Australia
In Australia, a normal Class 2 medical test
is taken and additional tests and
reports are required. Assuming that history of health and sugar
control requirements are met, the licence can be issued with a restriction
that a safety pilot, currently rated on the type of aircraft being
flown, is present during each flight.
Flying in the UK
An exciting new "National Private Pilot Licence" (NPPL)
scheme was introduced in the UK in July 2002. The applicant pilot
can make a self-declaration of medical fitness which subsequently
needs to be endorsed by a doctor who has access to the applicant's
medical records. If there is a medical history which would prevent
you from achieving a Driving and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLC)
Group 2 standard for professional driving, you can fly solo or with
another qualified pilot on type (a safety pilot). This currently
applies to people with Type 1 Diabetes. The NPPL allows individuals
to train for and gain ratings for single-engine piston aircraft
weighing less than 2000 kgs (approximately 4,400 pounds), self launching
motor gliders and microlights. Pre-flight and in-flight blood sugar
testing requirements are similar to the USA.
Full details of the UK NPPL system can be found
Flying in Canada
At present it is possible to gain a recreational pilot's licence
and fly aircraft with up to four seats only. Background medical
requirements and pre-flight and in-flight blood sugar testing requirements
are similar to the USA. It is also possible to exercise commerical
pilot licence privileges for two-crew operations.
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