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1.7 millions Australians are living with diabetes which has been described as the epidemic of the 21st century. In 2013, diabetes caused 5.1 million deaths globally. Diabetes can, for many years, cause no symptoms but all the while be causing irreparable damage to your body. Those overweight, over 40 or of Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander/Pacific Island/Indian Subcontinent ethnicity should be tested annually for diabetes.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious, lifelong condition where your blood glucose (sugar) level is too high. There are two main types,Type 1 and Type 2. They’re different conditions, but they’re both serious. There are some other types of diabetes too including Gestational Diabetes (pregnancy-related diabetes). 

What causes diabetes?

What all types of diabetes have in common is that they cause the levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood to rise too high. Glucose is released after the breakdown of the carbohydrates that we eat or drink. A hormone called insulin, made by the pancreas, then causes the glucose in our blood to enter our cells to be stored or utilized as fuel. Normally the pancreas senses when glucose has entered your bloodstream and releases the right amount of insulin, to move the excess glucose into the cells and maintaining a normal level in the blood. In diabetes, this system doesn’t work and the glucose level in the blood rises.

Type 1 and Type 2

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas is unable to make any insulin at all. In Type 2 diabetes, the insulin either doesn’t work effectively, or not enough is produced.


Often, in Type 2 diabetes, there may be no symptoms initially however raised blood glucose may cause you to wee a lot, being incredibly thirsty, and feeling very tired. You may also lose weight, get infections like thrush or suffer from slow healing wounds.


Over a long period of time, high glucose levels in your blood can seriously damage your heart, your eyes, your feet and your kidneys. These are known as the complications of diabetes.

But with the right treatment and care, people can live a healthy life with a much lower risk of these problems.


Treatment of Type 1 diabetes always involves insulin but for the more common Type 2 diabetes most patients will start with tablets. For all diabetics a healthy diet & weight, exercize, alcohol moderation and not smoking are important and monitoring and management of your diabetes will often involve your GP, a dietitian, pharmacist and optometrist.


The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) provides access to a wide range of support, advice and products. Registration is free.

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