Did you know that right now it's estimated there could be up to half a million Australians living with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes? That's on top of the 1.1 million Aussies who have been diagnosed, and the estimated two million people who are at high risk of developing the condition.
It's an epidemic that continues to rise throughout Australia, and this year's National Diabetes Week (July 14 to 20) addresses the importance of detecting it early, with the continuation of the It's About Time campaign. "There's many aspects of diabetes where things are just happening too late," says Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson. "It is about time, and timing and early detection are really important."
According to Professor Johnson, it's quite common for people to have type 2 diabetes silently, without any obvious signs or symptoms for up to seven years before diagnosis. "The kicker is that even though there's no obvious symptoms, it can be doing real damage to your body," he says. "People often underestimate type 2 diabetes, thinking it's a lifestyle condition rather than what it is; a complex metabolic condition that can do serious damage to many organs in your body."
Meanwhile, Professor Johnson says more than 3300 Australians will be diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in the coming year. "Of those, hundreds will end up very sick in hospital and that's when they'll find out they have diabetes," he says. "And that's a problem, because we're missing the early signs. Knowing the early signs avoids some of these hospitalisations and gets the diagnosis and treatment happening earlier."
Once type 1 or 2 diabetes has been identified, it can be well managed, and most complications and damage can be avoided. Professor Johnson says there are quick and simple things that should be considered to identify type 2 diabetes, including opportunistic screening. "Trials have been done in emergency departments around the country, where people who turned up to hospital were routinely checked for diabetes," he says. "They had extraordinary numbers of people identify with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. If that happened routinely, the evidence is we'd identify lots of people every day."
Professor Johnson says there should also be greater efforts around community-based screening for type 2 diabetes, and that everyone should know the four Ts of type 1 diabetes:
- Thirst - are they really thirsty and unable to quench that thirst?
- Toilet - are they going to the toilet a lot?
- Tired - are they more tired than usual?
- Thinner - have they recently lost weight?
For details about National Diabetes Week, visit diabetesaustralia.com.au.