Diabetes Information

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The statistics

  • It is estimated that 1 million Australians have diabetes and about half of those are not aware they have the condition
  • By 2015 it is expected that the number of people with diagnosed diabetes will total 4.6 million in Australia
  • Diabetes is entirely treatable and type 2 diabetes is mostly preventable

The complications of diabetes

Diabetes is a major health concern because of significant complications that include increased risk of:

  • heart disease and stroke,
  • blindness,
  • kidney failure
  • limb amputation
  • erectile dysfunction in men
  • depression

Type 1 diabetes

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Type 1 diabetes (formerly known as Juvenile Diabetes or Insulin Dependant Diabetes Mellitus (IDDM) is caused by the body destroying its own insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Without insulin the body cannot use glucose for energy so then begins to burn fat cells. Without insulin injections, chemical imbalances occur that can potentially be life threatening.
Type 1 diabetes is often diagnosed in childhood but it can develop at any age. It’s an autoimmune condition that is NOT caused by lifestyle factors.

The signs of type 1 diabetes are typically rapid and can include:

  • Being excessively thirsty
  • Passing more urine
  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Always feeling hungry
  • Having cuts that heal slowly
  • Itching, skin infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Unexplained weight loss

If you are concerned about these symptoms arrange to see a doctor. A blood glucose test can be performed quickly and easily and will give you an almost immediate diagnosis.

Whilst there is not cure currently for type 1 diabetes, the disease can be managed through injections of insulin, regular blood glucose testing and a health lifestyle.

Type 2 diabetes

diabetes sportsType 2 diabetes (formerly known as Non Insulin Diabetes Mellitus or NIDM) is the most common form of diabetes with the number of cases rapidly increasing around the world due to lifestyle factors. Type 2 accounts for 85–90% of all cases of diabetes and is often diagnosed in adults over the age of 45 years. However, younger people are being diagnosed more frequently with this condition.

Type 2 diabetes is marked by reduced levels of insulin (insulin deficiency) and/or the inability of the body to use insulin properly known as insulin resistance. It is usually slow in onset and this may mean that someone may have had diabetes for several years even at diagnosis.

Type 2 diabetes often results from a combination of factors. Although there is a strong link with family history of the disease, the risk is greatly increased when associated with lifestyle factors such as high blood pressure, overweight or obesity, inadequate physical activity and poor diet. People that typically carry their excess weight around their middle (apple shape), are more likely to develop diabetes.

Type 2 is often diagnosed by routine blood tests as often very few symptoms of the condition may be present.

The signs of type 2 diabetes may include:

  • Passing more urine
  • Feeling tired and lethargic
  • Having cuts that heal slowly
  • Itching, skin infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Feeling dizzy

Type 2 diabetes can often be managed with healthy eating and regular physical activity in the early stages. However, as diabetes is a progressive disease most people will need tablets and many will also need insulin. It is important to note that this is just the natural progression of the disease, and taking tablets or insulin as soon as they are required can result in fewer complications in the long-term.

Family History

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People who have either parents or siblings with diabetes are two to six times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Your risk rises as you get older and men are at a greater risk of getting it. Also lifestyle factors such as poor diet, being overweight, smoking and inactivity are high risk factors and it’s an increase in these, especially weight which is the cause of the increasing rates of type 2.It is believed that type 2 diabetes can be prevented in up to 60% of cases. People can lower their risk through the following:


  • Regular exercise and an active lifestyle
  • Eating a well balanced diet
  • Maintaining an ideal weight or losing 10% of excess body weight
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing blood pressure and cholesterol levels
  • Not smoking

Gestational Diabetes

diabetes dietGestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is diagnosed through routine testing during pregnancy. Higher than normal blood glucose levels are found in between 3 and 8% of pregnant women often around 24th to 28th week of pregnancy or earlier.

Gestational diabetes results from the significantly increased need for insulin during pregnancy. If the body is unable to produce enough insulin, then gestational diabetes develops.

Poorly managed or undetected gestational diabetes can lead to problems such as a large baby, miscarriage and stillbirth.

Women with gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

A combination of factors puts pregnant women at greater risk of type 2 diabetes:

  • Over 30 years of age
  • Have a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are from an Indigenous Australian or Torres Strait Islander background
  • Are from a Vietnamese, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Polynesian or Melanesian background
  • Have previously had gestational diabetes
  • Have previously had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • You have previously given birth to a large baby
  • Have a family history of gestational diabetes

Managing all types of diabetes

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All types of diabetes require the same management approach: a team effort. Firstly and most importantly it requires the person with diabetes to want to actively manage their diabetes with the support of their family and with the assistance of a team of health care professionals including a Credentialed Diabetes Educator, GP, dietitian and specialists.