Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia; increasing at a faster rate than other chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer.
Almost 120,000 Australians have developed diabetes in the past year joining an almost 1.9 million Australian’s who are living with diabetes. But what actually is diabetes?
Diabetes is a serious chronic condition that occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels, and without it, a person’s blood glucose levels are too high. Over time high glucose levels can damage blood vessels and nerves, resulting in long term health complications including heart, kidney, eye and foot damage.
There are three main types of diabetes:
Type 1: Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, resulting in a lack of insulin.
Type 2: Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes has non-modifiable and modifiable risk factors.
Gestational Diabetes: Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy when hormonal changes can lead to insulin resistance.
What's your risk of type 2 diabetes?
Take Diabetes Australia's risk calculator to assess your risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the next 5 years.
If the risk calculator concludes you have a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the next 5 years, you should book a GP appointment immediately. Your GP will conduct a diabetes risk assessment and work with you to manage your risk.
The symptoms of diabetes can vary between cases and the different types of diabetes prevent differently. In type 1 diabetes, symptoms are often sudden and can be life-threatening, so it is usually diagnosed within hours or days.
In type 2 diabetes, many people have no symptoms, while other signs can go unnoticed, attributed to ‘getting older’. By the time symptoms are noticed, complications of diabetes may already be present.
Some common symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Feeling dizzy
- Leg cramps
- Blurred visions
- Always feeling hungry
- Unexplained weight loss
- Passing more urine
- Being excessively thirsty
- Feeling tired and lethargic
- Having cuts that heal slowly
- Itching, skin infections
Diabetes risk factors
The exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown but we do know there is a strong genetic link and it cannot be prevented. On the other hand, there are a range of factors for type 2 diabetes that increase your risk of developing the condition.
Risk factors that cannot be changed include:
- Age (people over 40 have a higher risk and the risk increases with age)
- Family history of diabetes
- Ethnicity and cultural background (including people from an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Island, Indian subcontinent or Chinese cultural background)
- History of gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome
Risk factors that can be managed include:
- Carrying excess weight (especially if this weight if around your middle)
- Being physically inactive
- Unhealthy eating habits
- High blood pressure
- High levels of cholesterol or other fats in the blood
These risk factors should be managed through lifestyle modifications such as changes to diet and increasing the amount of physical activity you do.
How your GP can help you manage your diabetes
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you should visit your GP to get a diabetes care plan as soon as possible. A diabetes care plan is an organised and holistic approach to better manage your chronic disease. The care plan considers your other medical conditions, health goals and things you can do to manage your condition to improve your quality of life.
In addition to practical health management advice, a diabetes care plan allows people living with diabetes to visit five allied health professionals each year, such as a dietitian, diabetes educator, exercise physiologist or podiatrist. These visits are eligible for a Medicare rebate.
If you are living with type 2 diabetes, you’re eligible for up to eight additional subsidised group education sessions each calendar year. These could include group sessions with diabetes educators, exercise physiologists and dietitians in your local area.
Diabetes care plans are valid for twelve months and should be reviewed every three months to track progress towards your goals.
Diabetes Australia is the national body for people affected by all types of diabetes and those at risk. Through leadership, prevention, management and research, Diabetes Australia is committed to reducing the impact of diabetes.
All resources and information has been sourced from Diabetes Australia.