Every year on November 14 is World Diabetes Day, an annual awareness campaign created by the World Health Organisation and International Diabetes Federation in 1991 in response to the health threat posed by diabetes. Diabetes is recognised as the world's fastest-growing chronic condition, with around one in 11 adults globally having diabetes (which is well over 400 million people). In Australia, it's estimated that 300 individuals develop diabetes every day.
With the campaign's theme being 'access to diabetes care', which includes quality diabetes education, we're going to take a look into what this disease is, what to keep an eye out for, and the risk factors associated with diabetes.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic and potentially life-threatening health condition where your body has difficulty producing glucose into energy, leading to excessively high levels of sugar in the blood. Blood glucose levels are normally controlled by a hormone called insulin (which converts glucose into energy) that's created by the pancreas.
However, diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce insulin or the body can't make use of insulin as it has developed a resistance to it. If the insulin can't do its job, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being converted to energy, and the resulting high blood glucose levels can cause serious health problems.
There is no cure for diabetes, but it can be managed well and those living with the disease can still live a fulfilling and enjoyable life.
There are three main types of diabetes: Type 1, Type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition where your body's immune system attacks the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. This is one of the most common chronic childhood illnesses in developed countries and usually develops in people under 30, though it can occur at any age.
Type 2 diabetes is where the body gradually becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin over a long period of time and therefore loses the capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas.
This is the most common form of diabetes and affects 85 to 90 per cent of all people with the disease. It usually develops in adults over 45 years of age, though it is becoming increasingly common in younger age groups.
Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy when the mother's insulin effectiveness is reduced. It generally affects around 3 to 10% of pregnant women, and usually goes away after the birth of the baby. Women who have had gestational diabetes also have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on.
This form of diabetes can cause excessive growth and fat in the baby if the mother's glucose levels remain raised. However, this disease can be monitored and treated, with risks greatly reduced if well-controlled.
It's important to note that the baby will not be born with diabetes.
Signs and symptoms
Common signs and symptoms of diabetes include:
Being thirstier than usual
Passing more urine
Feeling tired and lethargic
Itching and skin infections
Nausea and vomiting
Unexplained weight loss
Symptoms are often sudden and can be life-threatening for type 1 diabetes, therefore should be diagnosed quickly. However, most people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms or may attribute them as signs that they're "getting older". As such, by the time symptoms are noticed, complications of diabetes may already be present. Therefore, it is important to stay vigilant about health checks when it comes to diabetes.
Am I at risk of diabetes?
While research suggests genetics and environmental factors may play a part in getting this disease, it is not yet known what causes type 1 diabetes and it isn't linked to any modifiable lifestyle factors. There is no cure for type 1 diabetes, but it can be successfully managed with insulin injections, proper nutrition, and exercise.
Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes is strongly linked to genetic and family-related risk factors, as well as modifiable lifestyle risk factors such as
Low levels of physical activity
Being obese or overweight.
While there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, it can be effectively managed through medication and lifestyle changes, such as healthier diets and regular exercise. Research has shown that it is possible for some people with type 2 diabetes to achieve a form of 'remission' of the disease.
People at risk of type 2 diabetes can delay or even prevent the disease by:
Maintaining a healthy weight
Regular physical activity
Making healthy food choices
Managing blood pressure
Managing cholesterol levels
If you're concerned about your health, you can head over to the Diabetes Australia website here and use their 'Risk calculator' to assess your risk of type 2 diabetes. Our Sonder support team is also available 24/7 if you need to chat with someone.
If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.
Information sourced from: Better Health, Diabetes Australia, Health Direct, World Diabetes Day
Image credit: Artem Podrez at Pexels
All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.