Whether you may have realised it or not, diabetes is one of the largest epidemics of the 21st century and the biggest challenge confronting Australia’s health system. Right now, 1.7 million people in Australia have diabetes (both Type 1 and Type 2) and that number is only increasing: around 280 people develop the condition every day.
According to Diabetes Australia, for every person diagnosed with diabetes there is usually a family member or carer who also ‘lives with diabetes’ every day in a support role. This means that an estimated 2.4 million Australians are affected by diabetes every day, bringing the total annual cost impact of diabetes in Australia to $14.6 billion.
Because so many people are diabetes sufferers, we thought we would share some facts about the condition and how it can be managed.
1. Men are at higher risk
Males are at slightly higher risk of developing diabetes than women, but age, excess weight, family history, physical inactivity, and poor diet are also significant risk factors for the illness.
2. It can be prevented
Type 2 diabetes can often be prevented or delayed, though sometimes a person has no symptoms of the disease or has no diagnosis of pre-diabetes. The best way to prevent diabetes type 2 is to engage in regular physical activity and a healthy diet, as well as keeping your cholesterol down.
3. There are links to kidney failure
In 2011, diabetes was the primary cause of kidney failure in 44 per cent of all new cases.
The main job of the kidneys is to remove waste from the blood and return the cleaned blood back to the body. Kidney failure means the kidneys are no longer able to remove waste and maintain the level of fluid and salts that the body needs.
Over time, the high levels of sugar in the blood of a T2D sufferers damage the millions of tiny filtering units within each kidney. This eventually leads to kidney failure.
Around 20 to 30 per cent of people with diabetes develop kidney disease, although not all of these will progress to kidney failure.
4. Many report loss of sensation
Diabetes causes mild loss of sensation in extremities in as many as 70 per cent of diabetics. When this loss of sensitivity occurs, amputations of lower extremities may be necessary.
These are called diabetic neuropathies. People with diabetes can, over time, develop nerve damage throughout the body, and around 60 to 70 percent of people with diabetes have some form of it.
5. About one third of all people with diabetes do not know they have the disease
In some cases of Type 2 diabetes, there are no symptoms. That means some people can live for months, even years, without knowing they have the disease.
People with Type 2 diabetes frequently experience certain symptoms that may be passed off as another illness:
- being very thirsty
- frequent urination
- blurry vision
- tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
- frequent skin, bladder or gum infections
- wounds that don’t heal
6. Type 2 diabetes is not a deficiency or absence of insulin
The different between Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes is that with Type 1 the body does not produce the hormone insulin so it can’t metabolise sugar, and Type 2 occurs when your body does not use the insulin properly.
7. Insulin resistance isn’t just caused by eating too much sugar
One of the most common misconceptions of Type 2 diabetes is that it is purely caused by eating too much sugar. While that can be a cause, a diet high in glucose (found in many different foods) is generally the reason why you can get diabetes. Lack of exercise, weight, pregnancy, and genetic factors all can build insulin resistance.
8. You don’t have to be overweight to get Type 2 diabetes
Many people think that if you’re skinny you won’t get diabetes – this is not true. Being overweight isn’t always a precursor to diabetes. In fact, no matter your weight, you can still get an insulin resistance.
9. Type 2 diabetes can be fatal
A huge problem is that people think that just because it won’t kill you straight away, Type 2 diabetes isn’t that serious and treatment can be put off. But T2D is a chronic illness and it can have serious complications.
Make sure you always see your doctor and get a plan for your treatment and management of your diabetes.