When it comes time for your next Department of Transportation (DOT) exam, you may find yourself facing a problem that's all-too-familiar to truckers everywhere: sugar in your urine.
More than likely, you've just found out that you have diabetes, although there will be additional tests needed to confirm it. Here's what you need to know right now:
1. You aren't alone in your condition.
It might help you to know that you're by no means alone in your situation -- truckers fail the urinalysis for sugar quite frequently because the risk of diabetes to the average trucker is 50% higher than it is to the general population.
Frankly, long hours on the road, coupled with a frequently inadequate diet and little to no anaerobic exercise, leads to long-term health problems like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes in greater numbers among truckers than in the population as a whole.
2. You'll need to get an A1C test immediately.
A urine test that shows high sugar is not definitive proof of diabetes -- sometimes, the kidneys are just overloaded by a recent influx of sugar (like the Starbucks grande caramel mocha latte you had for breakfast). You'll be given a finger stick test next to test your blood sugar content. If it is 200mg/dl or higher, you'll be diagnosed as newly diabetic.
However, you might not be diabetic after all. The urine test and finger-prick test only grab a momentary picture of your blood sugar levels -- they aren't really the best way to tell if your blood sugar is under control for real or not. If you get a test called a hemoglobin A1c, it will give definitive proof of the glucose levels in your blood cells over the last 3 month period. Values over 6.5% are considered diabetic.
3. You may not necessarily lose your commercial driver's license.
If your A1c confirms diabetes, with treatment and proof that your diabetes is under control and complications of the disease (like vision loss and neuropathy) are not impairing your ability to drive, you can keep your commercial driver's license (CDL). You'll have to file for a medical exemption through the U.S. Department of Transportation.
You should be aware, however, that the process takes 180 days to complete -- during which time you won't be allowed to operate a commercial vehicle.
4. You can minimize the risk of all of this happening before you ever go to the DOT exam.
If you really want to minimize the risk that this is going to happen to you, take control of the situation before you ever get to your exam.
Keeping in mind that the red blood cell lives for 180 days, you can significantly lower your chances of having a high A1c reading by making sure that you eat healthily and exercise regularly starting at least 3 months before your exam. Since DOT exams are good for up to 24 months, you have plenty of time to plan this. Diet and exercise are the cornerstones of blood sugar control.
When you schedule your exam, ask the examiner to include an instant A1c test as part of the exam. That way, you don't have to worry about a false-positive reading from your urine or finger-prick test. Schedule your exam for early in the morning and make sure that you are fasting -- don't make your usual coffee run before hitting the doctor's office! That will minimize the chances of a false positive.
For more information about your DOT physical, talk to a provider near you.