Too many Australians are being diagnosed with diabetes too late, and the delay is putting many at risk of life-threatening health problems.
But taking prompt action, whether it’s seeing a doctor because you have symptoms or having a check-up because you’ve reached a certain age, can make a difference — it could even save your life.
That’s why ‘It’s About Time’ is the campaign message of National Diabetes Week (July 8-14).
Whether it’s type 1 or type 2 diabetes, early diagnosis and treatment, followed by proper support and management of the condition can reduce the risk of diabetes-related health complications.
Type 1 diabetes: Should I see a doctor?
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks the pancreas. It prevents the pancreas from producing insulin, the hormone the body uses to break down food so it can be used for energy.
The causes of this reaction aren’t known and there is no cure. Unlike type 2 diabetes, type 1 is not associated with lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise, that you can improve. However, a healthy lifestyle can reduce the impact of complications – which can include kidney disease, blindness and limb amputation — for people who live with type 1 diabetes.
The condition is managed by having insulin injections several times a day or using an insulin pump.
The symptoms of type 1 diabetes can occur suddenly and include:
- excessive thirst
- passing more urine than normal
- feeling tired and lethargic
- always feeling hungry
- having cuts that heal slowly
- itching, skin infections
- blurred vision
- unexplained weight loss
- mood swings
- feeling dizzy
- leg cramps
Know the ‘4T’ early signs: Toilet, Tired, Thirsty, Thinner. If you notice these warning signs, says Diabetes Australia, then it’s time to see your doctor urgently.
Type 2 diabetes: Do I need a check-up?
Type 2 diabetes, which develops over a long period of time, occurs when the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or the pancreas gradually becomes unable to produce enough insulin.
We don’t know the causes of type 2 diabetes, although it does run in families. Lifestyle factors — including poor diet and lack of physical activity, as well as high blood pressure and obesity — all increase the risk of developing the condition.
Are you at risk?
Since the risk of type 2 diabetes increases over time, a person will be at greater risk if they are over 55. If they are overweight or have high blood pressure, they will be at greater risk from age 45. Some ethnic groups are at greater risk from an even earlier age.
While people with type 2 will put on weight gradually rather than lose it, the symptoms of the condition are otherwise the same as those for type 1 diabetes (see above). Many people with type 2 will show no symptoms.
If you are over 40, it’s time to get checked by a doctor. Type 2 diabetes can cause serious damage if not diagnosed early, says Diabetes Australia.
Where to get help
- Visit your GP — they are the best person to advise you on tests for diabetes and any symptoms you might be experiencing.
- Call the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) helpline on 1800 637 700 or join NDSS to access support services, including free or subsidised products.
- Visit the Diabetes Australia website for information and resources, including contact details for the organisation’s state and territory branches.
- Check your risk factors with Diabetes Australia’s risk calculator.
- Access multilingual information on diabetes here.
- Find information on diabetes in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community here.
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