The 11-17 July marks National Diabetes Week in 2021. This month we chose to focus on the importance of understanding diabetes and why raising awareness matters to those who suffer from it. The stigma of diabetes can be damaging emotionally and mentally because it prevents those living with this condition from feeling confident in themselves or being open about it at work for fear of judgement.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects the way your body processes sugars and starches. Diabetes impacts a person’s ability to maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood.
When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use insulin well because of resistance to it. This causes blood sugar levels to rise higher than normal and become difficult for the cells in your muscles, brain, and fat tissue to get the energy they need from glucose (sugar).
The Glucose & Insulin Relationship
Glucose is a form of sugar that is the main source of energy for our bodies. Without it, the impact on the body is evident in both the short and long term. Our body develops energy by converting the glucose in food so, without that process, our body is unable to function appropriately.
A hormone called insulin is essential for the conversion of glucose into energy when this is no longer produced then we will not create sufficient energy. Instead of being turned into energy, the glucose stays in the blood resulting in high blood glucose levels. After eating, the glucose is carried around your body in your blood. This is the process that occurs with someone with diabetes.
Diabetes is the most serious epidemic of this century and a huge challenge for Australia’s health system.
- 280 Australians develop diabetes every day. That’s one person every five minutes.
- Around 1.8 million Australians have diabetes. This includes all types of diagnosed diabetes (1.3 million known and registered) as well as silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes (up to 500,000 estimated). (Source)
- More than 100,000 Australians have developed diabetes in the past year.
- 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.
- The total annual cost impact of diabetes in Australia estimated at $14.6 billion. (Source)
Types of Diabetes
Diabetes is something that can impact anyone and is a severe condition that can impact all of one’s body and overall life. There are 3 types of diabetes each with its own complexities, Type 1, Type 2, and Gestational. Diabetes requires daily self-care and if complications develop, diabetes can have a significant impact on quality of life and can reduce life expectancy.
Type 1 Diabetes:
Accounts for approximately 10% of all diabetes cases and the onset is often quite abrupt. It is one of the most chronic childhood conditions, it is not linked to any lifestyle factors and is an autoimmune reaction in the body. The autoimmune reaction causes the immune system to be activated to destroy the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin.
Type 2 Diabetes:
This accounts for a significant amount of all diabetes cases. Type 2 is generally a progressive condition in which the body develops a resistance to the effects of insulin or loses the ability to develop insulin. Type 2 can be linked to lifestyle factors as well as genetic predispositions however it is still unknown what causes it. Making modifications to lifestyle factors can slow the impact of the disease.
Often a temporary form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. It usually develops between 24-28 weeks. There are many factors that could lead to a woman being at higher risk. While many return to normal after pregnancy there is an increased risk for type 2 diabetes afterwards.
Many people with diabetes are not aware of the symptoms of their condition, which can eventually lead to more serious health problems, such as kidney failure or blindness. The symptoms of diabetes, also known as the “silent killer”, could be going unnoticed in your life. It is important to monitor these early warning signs so you can take action and see your doctor before it becomes too late for treatment.
Common diabetes symptoms include:
- Being more thirsty than usual
- Passing more urine
- Feeling tired and lethargic
- Always feeling hungry
- Having cuts that heal slowly
- Itching, skin infections
- Blurred vision
- Unexplained weight loss (type 1)
- Gradually putting on weight (type 2)
- Mood swings
- Feeling dizzy
- Leg cramps
For more information on diabetes, please visit the Diabetes Australia website.