DIABETES, we hear about it all the time in the media but what actually is it, why is it a problem and is it really relevant to you?

Well, we should ALL be concerned about the risk of this disease as it can affect anyone, it often has devastating health effects and causes much strain on our health system. Most of you reading will know someone who has this diagnosis.

Around 5% of Australians have diabetes and the incidence is increasing. It occurs when the body is unable to regulate the amount of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Persistent high levels of glucose, if left untreated, will eventually lead to potentially serious complications. These include blindness, kidney disease, heart disease, increased infections, poor healing and gangrene.

Type 1 diabetes is when the body doesn’t make its own insulin (an essential regulator of glucose). This type can be diagnosed at any age and these patients must take insulin to survive.

Type 2 diabetes is much more common and is the type that usually develops with age. Genetics and lifestyle also play a major role.

Glucose levels can be high for 5 or more years before complications develop and this is a window we are very interested in. A simple blood test can easily screen for diabetes, screening should start at age 50 or earlier if you have other risk factors.

Many people are shocked to receive a diagnosis of diabetes. After all, they often have no symptoms and consider themselves healthy. It can be hard to understand why we are making a fuss and wanting to keep a close eye on it. The reason is that we want to get good control in order to prevent complications. If we wait until there are symptoms this is much harder and may be too late. Symptoms can include thirst and excessive urination or blurred vision but don’t wait to be screened, prevention is definitely better than cure.

If we catch it early enough management of diabetes is as easy as modifying your lifestyle. Limiting sugars and carbohydrates in the diet, losing excess weight and keeping active are the most powerful things you can do in the fight against diabetes. Sometimes medication is required as the disease progresses and this may be in the form of tablets, weekly injections or even insulin. After diagnosis it is important to have your regular check ups so we can pick up on any progression of disease as early as possible. If you have any questions please ask your doctor next time you come in. We are here to help and love working with you to keep you in the best health possible.

Dr Sally Parsons, General Practitioner

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