National Diabetes Day 14/11

Thursday, November 14th is National Diabetes Day! For our bodies to work properly we need to convert glucose (sugar) from food into energy. This essential conversion of glucose into energy is performed by a hormone known as insulin. In people with diabetes, insulin is no longer produced or not produced in sufficient amounts by the body.


What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic disease characterised by high levels of glucose in the blood. Blood sugar levels are controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, or the body becomes resistant to insulin, or both. There are three main forms of the disease:

  • Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease where the body’s immune system attacks the insulin producing cells of the pancreas. People with type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin and require lifelong insulin injections for survival. The disease can occur at any age, although it mostly occurs in children and young adults. Type 1 diabetes is sometimes referred to as juvenile onset diabetes or insulin dependent diabetes.
  • Type 2 diabetes is associated with hereditary factors and lifestyle risk factors including poor diet, insufficient physical activity and overweight or obesity. People with type 2 diabetes may be able to manage their condition through lifestyle changes; however, diabetes medications or insulin injections may also be required to control blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes occurs mostly in people aged over 40 years old, however, the disease is also becoming increasingly prevalent in younger age groups.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy. The condition usually disappears once the baby is born, however, a history of gestational diabetes increases a woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. The condition may be managed through adopting healthy dietary and exercise habits, although diabetes medication, including insulin, may also be required to manage blood sugar levels.Top of page


How common is diabetes?

Diabetes prevalence figures in Australia are primarily estimated from findings arising out of the National Health Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

  • There are an estimated 1.2 million people aged 2 years and over (5.1% of the population) with diagnosed diabetes in Australia (source 1).
  • Of those who reported having been diagnosed with diabetes in 2014-15, 85% reported having type 2 diabetes (an estimated 1,002,000 people), 13.5% reported having type 1 diabetes (an estimated 158,900 people). (source 1). In 2013, an estimated 6,091 children aged 0-14 had type 1 diabetes.(source 2).
  • Diabetes prevalence (based on self-reports) almost doubled between 1989–90 and 2004–05 (source 3). After stabilising between 2007–08 and 2011-12, the rate increased from 4.4% to 5.1% in 2014-15 (source 1).
  • Type 2 diabetes is overrepresented among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons, with 12.8% of people aged 15 years and over returning test results showing that they had the disease in 2014-15 (source 4).
  • The National Perinatal Data Collection estimates that 37,877 (6%) of women who gave birth between 2009-2011 were diagnosed with gestational diabetes (source 5).


What are the risk factors for diabetes?

Diabetes closely co-exists with cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease, with these three diseases accounting for around a quarter of the entire disease burden in Australia. Accordingly, diabetes shares a number of common risk factors with these other chronic diseases, including: insufficient physical activity, poor diet and failing to maintain a healthy abdominal weight.

Major risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes that cannot be modified include advancing age, genetic predisposition, ethnicity, and family history.Top of page


Treatment or management of diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic condition requiring the use of a variety of health services for its control and for the early diagnosis and treatment of associated complications. People with diabetes use a range of health services to control blood sugar, blood pressure and blood lipid levels to reduce symptoms and the risk of complications, and to enhance their quality of life.

Diabetes is diagnosed when:

  • Symptoms are present and a fasting blood test returns a result at, or above, 7.0mmol/L.
  • A random fasting blood test returns a result at or above 11.1mmol/L.
  • A HbA1c (glycated haemoglobin) blood test returns a result of at, or above, 6.5%.
  • There have been no symptoms and two abnormal blood glucose tests are recorded on separate days.

GPs are usually the initial point of contact for people with diabetes and, along with other primary and allied health professionals, will commonly manage diabetes in collaborative care arrangements. This can involve regular monitoring of a patient’s weight levels, blood levels, general health status, and more focused examinations of a patient’s eyes and feet. Where diabetes complications arise, patients will conventionally be referred, as appropriate, to endocrinologists, cardiologists, nephrologists, obstetricians and/or ophthalmologists.

People with diabetes often require medication regimes to control high blood glucose levels. In addition, affected persons may also require medications to reduce high blood pressure and/or cholesterol levels. Persons affected by type 1 diabetes require regular injections of insulin (a protein that removes excess glucose from the blood) in order to regulate their blood glucose levels (and to survive), and some persons with type 2 diabetes also require insulin in cases where their diabetic condition is difficult to control.



The information above has been sourced from  Australian government Department of Health