We’ve all heard of diabetes. Many of us know someone who has it. What you may not know is that diabetes has no cure and can reduce our life expectancy.
With over 100,000 new cases last year alone, according to Diabetes Australia it is Australia’s fastest growing chronic condition with one person diagnosed every five minutes.
If that doesn’t worry you, it should. Here’s why.
The human body is a complex system that keeps us alive by converting glucose from food into energy. When we eat, our blood sugar rises which tells our pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin has one job and it’s an important one—to travel around the body assisting our muscles, fat cells and liver to extract glucose (sugar) from the blood and either convert it into energy for immediate use or store it for use later on.
Diabetes inhibits this vital process by causing the body to stop producing insulin, or not produce enough of it. This means glucose stays in the bloodstream and instead of being turned into energy, it can lead to complications such as kidney disease, heart attack, stroke, limb amputations and blindness if left untreated.
Diabetes is also a leading cause of poor mental health due to the intrusive nature of treating and managing the disease.
There are three types of diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes is the one we know least about. We know it’s an auto-immune condition where the body attacks the pancreatic cells that produce insulin, but we don’t know why or how to prevent it. It’s not linked to lifestyle factors such as obesity and is Australia’s most common chronic childhood disease. Around 10 per cent of people with diabetes have type 1.
Symptoms can include excessive thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, weakness, fatigue and blurred vision.
Treatment includes multiple daily injections of insulin or the use of an insulin pump.
Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disorder where the body stops responding to insulin (insulin resistance), or the pancreas loses the ability to produce enough insulin to manage blood glucose levels. It’s the most common form of diabetes and often runs in families.
There is a link to lifestyle factors such as obesity, and people of Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Islander, Indian or Chinese descent are more prone to it; we don’t know why. Up to 90 per cent of all diabetes cases fall into this category.
Symptoms may include excessive thirst, lethargy, frequent urination, itchy skin, blurred vision, leg cramps and headaches, however people often show no symptoms which can lead to complications arising before diagnosis has occurred.
Treatment includes oral medications and/or insulin injections. Type 2 diabetes can be managed—to a degree—through diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight.
Gestational diabetes affects pregnant women. It is the fastest growing type of diabetes in Australia impacting around 15 per cent of all pregnancies. It usually occurs in weeks 24-28 of pregnancy, however in most cases, the condition dissipates once the baby is born.
What can you do?
If you or someone you know thinks they may be at risk of diabetes, or is experiencing symptoms, it’s important to visit a GP for a simple glucose test. Remember, early detection may help keep complications at bay for longer.
If you’re an Incolink employer member, you can arrange for the new Incolink Bus to visit your worksite.
As well as testing for diabetes, the GPs on the Incolink Bus deliver prostate, cholesterol and skin checks to workers. The Incolink Bus was launched in June this year and is the most comprehensive mobile health program ever developed for the construction industry.
Learn more at incolink.org.au.