Do you know as much about diabetes as you should?

How much do you really know about diabetes?

What you don’t know about diabetes

Awareness of diabetes as a condition has probably never been higher, but apart from knowing the name of the disease, something about blood sugar and daily insulin injections, and the fact that it’s not a nice thing to have, how much do you really know about diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels. For our bodies to perform optimally, we need to convert glucose into energy. A hormone called insulin is essential for this conversion process. If glucose can’t be converted to energy, it stays in the blood. This results in high blood glucose levels which, in turn, can lead to all manner of dangerous health conditions and, possibly, even death.

There are three types of diabetes: gestational – which occurs during pregnancy but often stops afterwards; type 2 – which is when the body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t respond to it, and type 1 – which is when the body doesn’t produce any insulin at all.

In all cases of diabetes, around 15 per cent are type 1 and 85 per cent are type 2. Around 280 Australians get diabetes each day. Around 600 a week will end up in hospitals due to undiagnosed type 1 diabetes, and there are an estimated 500,000 undiagnosed sufferers of type 2 diabetes.

Now you’ve got the basics, you may or may not know that diabetes:

  • is the leading cause of blindness in adults
  • is a leading cause of kidney failure and dependency on dialysis
  • doubles your chance of early death
  • is the leading cause of preventable limb amputations
  • may make you twice as likely to suffer hearing loss
  • increases the risk of heart attacks and stroke by up to four times
  • also affects mental health, with depression, anxiety and distress occurring in more than 30 per cent of all people with diabetes.

Early symptoms of diabetes include:

  • thirst
  • frequent toilet visits
  • extreme fatigue
  • weight loss.

If Type 1 isn’t diagnosed in time, it can be fatal, so keep an eye out for these symptoms, as early detection could save your life.

Type 2 diabetes has no obvious symptoms and is therefore not so easily diagnosed. Sometimes people can have it for years before it is recognised. During that time, you could suffer damage to your blood vessels and nerves, vision loss, heart attacks, stroke and kidney damage, and amputation.

If you are even suspicious of having diabetes, or if it runs in your family, early detection is vital. Take advantage of free diabetes checks and give yourself the best chance of preventing further damage or at least giving yourself peace of mind.

“We want to encourage people to come in and make the most of our free health checks, especially as the number of under-diagnosed Australians is staggering for conditions such as diabetes, where half a million Australians are currently undiagnosed and at risk,” says Pharmacist and Managing Director of Pharmacy 4 Less Feras Karem.

“Many of the negative health outcomes of Type 2 are preventable if managed early on, and the tests take just a few minutes, so it is well worth coming in. As always, if you’re already concerned that you may have diabetes, you should head straight to your GP or a qualified medical professional as soon as possible.”

There is also evidence that the early detection of diabetes could help to prevent the development of dementia, says Dementia Australia.

“This includes evidence that the risk of developing dementia in the general population is about 10 per cent, but for people with diabetes the risk doubles to around 20 per cent,” said Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe.

“It is not clear if the increased risk of dementia is the same for people with type 1 diabetes, but given anyone can develop dementia, reducing your risk of developing the disease is important.

“These statistics highlight the need to ensure that Australians are aware of the risks associated with type 2 diabetes, and their potential link to dementia.

“It’s important to remember that both type 2 diabetes and dementia have no known cure, and the link between type 2 diabetes and dementia is not completely understood. However, there is evidence that type 2 diabetes is preventable.

“People who maintain a healthy weight, undertake regular physical activity, make healthy food choices, manage their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and don’t smoke have a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes and could potentially reduce their risk of dementia.

“We encourage people to undertake regular health screenings with their doctor to detect diabetes-related and other health problems.”

While the threat and consequences of diabetes are quite sinister, there is hope for anyone who does develop the disease.

Diabetes Victoria has just awarded Kellion Victory Medals to 47 Victorians who have lived with diabetes for over 50 years.

“Less than 100 years ago, type 1 diabetes was a death sentence: half of the people who developed the condition died within two years and more than 90 per cent were dead within five years,” said a statement from Diabetes Victoria.

“There is no cure yet for type 1 diabetes; however, recent changes and improvements in diabetes management and technology are astounding. Equally as astounding are the determination, resilience, focus and courage that all Kellion Victory Medallists have shown during their long life with diabetes,” says Diabetes Victoria CEO Craig Bennett.

“I congratulate all of our recipients for this outstanding accomplishment. They all deserve our utmost respect and admiration.”

Learn more about diabetes at

Do you have diabetes? How do you manage? Were you aware of the extent of the disease?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    11th Jul 2018
    It's an epidemic and Governments refuse to initiate national testing because of the up front cost. If pre-diabetes is discovered early, then it can be reversed. A fasting blood glucose tolerance test is the only way to properly diagnose the condition. Unless detected early, it progressively gathers pace until full blown diabetes results with all of the terrible health issues and the costs at this later stage are far greater than the cost of testing.
    If we can initiate bowel cancer screening we can surely do similar with this disease. There are already a reported 1.5 million people in Australia living with diabetes with a large unknown factor likely three times more including pre-diabetes. So 5 million are likely affected out of the total population of 25 million. Scary?
    11th Jul 2018
    It is an epidemic of bad eating habits ... and Type 2 can be reversed by different dietary habits...AND intermittent fasting. "The Diabetes Code" by Dr Jason Fung 2018 explains everything your doctor doesn't know because of ingrained outdated theories. Sugar in so many foodstuffs, highly processed carbs should be removed from a diabetics diet ... diabetes can be progressive if you let it. Be in control.
    11th Jul 2018
    Not always bad eating habits. Familial factors play a large role although media report mostly on lifestyle morbidity issues. Risk factors are age, lifestyle, genetics or other health problems which attenuate the advancement of the disease. It is not fully understood why otherwise healthy humans develop type 2, and our modern diet is thought to play a role although this has not been scientifically proved. What has been proven is that a caloric reduction will most often assist in treatment, together with moderate exercise. Pregnant women often develop gestational diabetes which is now identified as a risk factor for type 2 development later in the mother's (and child's) life, irrespective of diet.

    Diabetes is NOT reversible. Disease progression will be slowed down by modifying diet, exercise and medication, but the disease remains. It is impossible to repair damage to the pancreas, it can only be assisted by medication. Fung's work is in relation to pre-diabetes which is a pre cursor to type 2. This may be reversible if caught early enough.

    The modus of treatment is an initial glucose tolerance test which will determine medication and lifestyle, followed by Hb1AC interval testing for life to track the progression and adjust medication where required. This modifies the progression of the disease, it is not a cure and nor is the Fung information to which you refer. For a better source refer to the Diabetes Australia web site.
    12th Jul 2018
    maelcolium, true! Four in my family have diabetes. Type 2 has variants as shown by examples of people with it. A skinny sister, a very active father plus a mother and myself. It is certainly not reversible at least not the genetic one. Some have it from a young age and it progresses and no connection to diet. Many avoid meds for many years but eventually need them. Too many assumptions like a lot of other things fortunately!
    16th Jul 2018
    Many people have successfully reversed Diabetes with a plant based diet, testimonials and stories can be found on the website;
    It only runs in families because they tend to have the same diets.

    11th Jul 2018
    I've had diabetes type 2 for over 20 years. It was out of control for a while and I've paid a heavy price: chronic renal failure requiring haemodialysis three times per week, eye problems, lower limb problems. My advice? Do what you need to do to avoid it; if you have it, keep in under condrol. It is a wild thing.

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