Info for Health Professionals
What is Diabetes
Diabetes Mellitus is present when there is too much glucose in the blood. Insulin is a hormone that lowers glucose levels in the blood. Glucose (a form of sugar) is the main source of fuel for our bodies.
It comes from foods containing carbohydrate. Diabetes Mellitus develops when the pancreas (the organ responsible for producing insulin) is either unable to make insulin or the insulin is unable to work effectively. Without insulin doing its job, glucose builds up in the blood leading to high blood glucose levels causing health problems.
There are two main types of diabetes
This type of diabetes is sometimes called Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus or Juvenile Onset Diabetes. It usually occurs in people under 30 years but can occur at any age. Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 15% of all people with diabetes.
In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces no insulin because the cells which make insulin have been destroyed by the immune system. Therefore people with Type 1 diabetes require insulin injections to control their blood glucose levels.
This type of diabetes is sometimes called Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus or Mature Age Onset Diabetes. It usually occurs in people who are over the age of 50 years and have a family history of diabetes or are overweight, although there are some exceptions.
Type 2 diabetes affects approximately 85% of people with diabetes. Being overweight makes insulin less efficient at controlling blood glucose levels. This is often referred to as insulin resistance.
Type 2 diabetes often responds to a healthy eating plan, appropriate exercise and weight reduction, but sometimes tablets and then later, insulin may be required.
People most at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes often have the following risk factors:
- a family history of diabetes
- are over 50 years of age
- are overweight
- had a child over 9lbs or 4kgs at birth
What are the key signs and symptoms of diabetes?
- Increased thirst
- Slow healing of cuts
- Frequent urination
- Itching, skin infections
- Feeling tired and lethargic
- Blurred vision
- Constant hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
How is diabetes managed?
- Education - finding out as much as you need to know to take responsibility for your health
- Healthy eating
- Regular physical activity
- Medication - tablets and/or insulin injections
- Regular health checks with various members of the diabetes team
- Maintaining a positive mental attitude
- Home monitoring of blood glucose levels
What are the aims of treatment?
To keep blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible (between 3.5-8 mmol/L). This will help prevent the short term affects of high and low blood glucose levels and long term complications which can affect the eyes, kidneys and/or nerves.
Diabetes Prevalence and Prediction in Australia
Diabetes: The epidemic of the 21st century.... "has become an increasing concern in the last 20-30 years, and it has been predicted that by the year 2025, there will be 300 million people around the world with this form diabetes. This is more than double the number of people estimated to have diabetes in 1995. Diabetes can be a devastating disease, not only because of the well known and feared complications of blindness, kidney failure and amputations, but also because of cardiovascular disease. People who have diabetes are at a two to four fold increased risk of developing heart disease, and other types of cardiovascular disease, and approximately 80% of people with diabetes ultimately die of cardiovascular disease"1.
The Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study (AusDiab)2 was undertaken in 1999/2000 to study diabetes, obesity and other cardiovascular risk factors. This major study took two years to perform, and studied over 11,000 people aged 25 and over throughout Australia (excluding the Australian Capital Territory). AusDiab found that:
- For every known case of diabetes, there is one other undiagnosed case.
- A total of 1 in 13 Australian adults (940,000 people, or 7.5% of the adult population) have diabetes, but half do not know it.
- There are more than three times as many adults with diabetes now compared to twenty years ago.
- An additional 1 in 6 Australian adults have blood sugar levels above normal, but not yet high enough to be diabetic. These people are also at high risk of heart disease, and of developing diabetes in the future.
- 39% of adults are mildly overweight, and a further 21% are frankly obese. This is more than twice the rate observed 20 years ago.
- Over half the adult population has elevated cholesterol levels.
- Almost a third of all adults have high blood pressure.
- Only half of Australian adults undertake sufficient physical activity to maintain good health.
- 54% of adults have at least one major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Information supplied by Diabetes Australia - Victoria (03) 9667 1777
For information about how insulin works visit: