Medical Conditions

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Brief description of Medical Conditions

The term Medical Condition includes asthma, epilepsy, diabetes, chronic pain and heart disease. Most people have experienced ill health of one kind or another from time to time, but this has probably been temporary in nature. Some people, however, have long term or permanent conditions which have been present from birth or acquired during life. The effects of these depend on the person’s age, circumstances and the nature of the conditions and/or treatment.

Detailed descriptions of some Medical Conditions

Allergies and Asthma

Increasing numbers of people are affected by some kind of allergy or by asthma. With regard to asthma, the National Asthma Audit 1999/2000 found that at least 1 in 25 adults in the UK aged 16 and over – over 1.9 million adults – has asthma symptoms currently requiring treatment. Approximately 1 in 7 children aged 2-15 (over 1.5 million children) are also estimated to have such symptoms . This is the equivalent of over 3.4 million people with asthma in the UK. These figures are higher than in past years, supporting the various studies which have shown that asthma is on the increase.

Most adults with asthma are able to establish methods of controlling their condition so that it does not normally affect their daily life. They know possible triggers and therefore are often able to prevent asthma attacks. However, it is still necessary for colleges to ensure that there are proper procedures for dealing with substances – called respiratory sensitisers – that can cause asthma or other allergies, those most relevant to the industry are animal allergens, chemicals and latex rubber.

Chemicals and latex rubber

It is normally possible for precautions to be taken so that individuals known to have some allergy to chemicals, latex rubber or other substances can avoid using them.

Dysosmia – Impaired Sense of Smell

An impaired sense of smell is usually associated with ageing. However, it can also occur in younger people and can be present from birth.

Apart from the need for extra safety precautions with regard to detecting smoke and gas, there is also the need to compensate for the fact that, for example, someone cannot detect food which has decayed.


It is estimated that in the UK, 1 in 200 people have epilepsy and 1 in 20 people will have an epileptic seizure at some time in their lives. 300,000 people in the UK are currently thought to have epilepsy. Given the high incidence of epilepsy, it seems likely that there may be many veterinarians who have epilepsy.

The UK National Society for Epilepsy provides advice for employers on the issues relating to someone who has epilepsy. The Society’s literature states that:

”If someone has uncontrolled epilepsy, it will be necessary to take into consideration any risks that a particular type of seizure might present in the workplace to themselves, their colleagues and clients”

According to the Society’s information, some occupations are barred by statutory provision for people with a history of epilepsy. These are:

Teaching posts involving physical education, science and technology, work with young children, jobs in the prison service involving close contact with inmates and some areas of nursing.

Also other professions Police and Armed Services are included in this exemption.

Each of the above professions has specific regulations, some of which allow them to accept people who have not had seizures for a specified number of years and have not been taking medication during that time. Other occupations listed as being those where difficulties may be experienced even though there are no statutory barriers include:

Aircraft pilot, ambulance driver, merchant seaman, LGV, PCV or Taxi driver, train driver and jobs in the armed services, fire brigade or police.

There is therefore a well-trodden path and an acceptance of the fact that it is not only perfectly legitimate but also a grave responsibility to exclude people with certain types of epilepsy from certain professions.

Photosensitive epilepsy is a rare condition in which seizures may be triggered by flashing or flickering lights or by certain geometric shapes and patterns. People with this condition are most likely to react to lights which flicker between five and thirty times per second (5-30Hz). An area of research currently being carried out by the US Access Board concerns producing fire alarm strobe lights which do not provoke an epileptic seizure in someone with this condition.

Another area for consideration is the issue of holding a driving licence. Whilst knowing how to drive is not an essential requirement for a vet, as stated earlier, it could be for someone who wanted to go on to work in a rural setting. In the UK, current regulations state that a person needs to be seizure free for a period of one year, either with or without anti-epileptic medication in order to hold a Group 1 driving licence (cars and motorbikes). Even if it is not essential for qualifying in the profession, therefore, not being able to drive because of epilepsy could affect someone’s future career path.

Characteristics Impacting on Learning and Teaching


Conditions such as chronic pain, epilepsy or psychiatric conditions can seriously affect a person’s daily routine. In many ways, it can be the side effects of the condition itself which causes difficulty. For example, a student may be prone to fatigue or stress or special medication may cause drowsiness and/or poor concentration.


Students can also be affected by the environment, e.g. students with epilepsy, diabetes or asthma. For some these cause physical or sensory disabilities but for many others stamina can also be affected. This means that planning an evenly distributed workload with the possibility of delayed/staggered deadlines is important. This consideration is particularly significant when students have had time off and need to catch up as well as cope with the demands of new studies.


Students with these conditions many not see themselves as having a disability and may not have indicated on application that they have a particular need. Students may also have faced previous prejudice from those around them and this also may restrict their disclosure of their condition. It is therefore particularly important that it is known that tutors will be sympathetic to students with such hidden disabilities or medical conditions.

Potential challenges to the achievement of learning


External resources