Health conditions

Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic health condition. Diabetes is a disorder in which the body cannot make proper use of carbohydrates in food because the pancreas does not make enough insulin, or the insulin produced is ineffective, or a combination of both.

Glucose comes from the digestion of carbohydrates in food. Insulin is the hormone responsible for helping glucose move into the body’s cells where it is used for energy.

Glucose is also stored in the liver ready for use, but if carbohydrate is overeaten then it is stored as fat.

When insulin is not present or is ineffective, glucose builds up in the blood.

If diabetes is undiagnosed (which can occur in type 2 diabetes) or it is difficult to achieve target ranges, it can cause complications such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, amputation and erectile dysfunction.

Find out more about type 1 diabetes.

Find out more about type 2 diabetes.

How common is diabetes?

Diabetes is Australia’s fastest growing chronic disease, with approximately 280 people across the nation developing the condition every day.

In Western Australia alone, there are more than 112,000 people now diagnosed with diabetes and for every person diagnosed, it is estimated that there is another person who is not diagnosed.

Much research is being done world wide to discover the cures for diabetes. Visit Diabetes Australia (external site) for the report Diabetes: the silent pandemic and its impact on Australia.

Signs and symptoms

The signs and symptoms of diabetes may include:

  • thirst
  • frequent urination
  • lethargy or being very tired
  • blurred vision
  • sudden unexplained/unplanned weight loss: type 1 diabetes
  • weight gain (type 2 diabetes)
  • infections or wounds that don't improve
  • constant hunger
  • mood swings.

Often in type 2 diabetes signs and symptoms may not be present.

Treatment of diabetes

In a nutshell, the aim of diabetes treatment is to help you feel well, be healthy and enjoy life.

Medically, diabetes treatment aims to keep blood glucose levels in target range most of the time - target ranges need to be discussed with your diabetes team as to what is suitable for you.

Together with control of cholesterol (blood fat) and blood pressure, this will help prevent the long-term complications which can affect your eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart and circulation.

Managing diabetes

Depending on the type of diabetes, your management can include:

  • insulin replacement (type 1 diabetes)
  • progression to medication – tablets and/or insulin (type 2 diabetes)
  • regular physical activity
  • healthy eating – low in fat (particularly saturated fat), high fibre, including some low GI, low salt
  • maintaining a healthy waist (reducing fat around your abdomen)
  • regular health checks with your diabetes team
  • managing stress
  • applying stress management technique
  • monitor your blood glucose levels
  • education – learn more about how to manage your diabetes, keep your knowledge and skills up to date.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor
  • Visit a GP after hours
  • Ring healthdirect on 1800 022 222
  • Phone the Diabetes WA Advice Line on 1300 136 588
  • If you live in rural or remote regions of WA and don't have close access to diabetes education, you can take advantage of the free diabetes management education and support service. Visit Telehealth for Country WA (external site) or phone 1300 166 588 and ask for Diabetes Telehealth.
  • If you live in the Great Southern, Wheatbelt or South West regions of WA you may be eligible to take advantage of the Health Navigator program. This program supports clients to self-manage chronic conditions.

This information provided by

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Acknowledgements
Diabetes WA

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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