What is Diabetes?

Short answer: Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high.

Long answer:

Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn’t make enough—or any—insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn’t reach your cells.

No insulin or, ‘ineffective’ insulin, results in the build-up of glucose in our blood stream. This can translate to serious diseases such as nerve, eye, gums and kidney damage as well as heart disease and stroke.

In Australia, Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic disease with roughly 282 people being diagnosed with this condition every day. In WA alone, there are more than 128,000 people diagnosed with Diabetes. Unfortunately, it is estimated that for every diagnosed case, there is an undiagnosed person who has the disease and is unaware of it. Signs and symptoms of Diabetes can include:

· Thirst

· Feeling very tired

· Blurred vision

· Infections or wounds that just won’t heal

· Increased need to urinate

· Feeling hungry

· Mood swings

· Sudden & unexplained weight loss

However, these signs and symptoms may not be there at all, particularly with Type 2 Diabetes. If you suspect you may have, or are at risk of developing Diabetes, it’s important to have a conversation with your regular GP. Management, through regular checkups and adhering to advice, can prevent development of the serious diseases associated with Diabetes. Most commonly we see 4 main types of Diabetes:

Type 1 – Our pancreas doesn’t produce insulin because the cells that should produce it have been destroyed by our immune system. Most commonly diagnosed during childhood to young adulthood (but can occur at any age) and accounts for 10 – 15% of all people with diabetes.

Type 2 – Insulin produced by the body is either ineffective, is not enough, or both. It is usually seen in adults (but now increasingly seen in teenagers and children) and accounts for approximately 85% of people with diabetes.

Pre-Diabetes – Blood glucose levels are higher than usual range but, not so high that the condition is diagnosed as type 2. This can also be broken down into two groups:

· Group 1 – Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT), and

· Group 2 – Impaired Fasting Glucose (IFG).

Strong evidence shows that up to 58% of people with this condition can prevent Type 2 through better lifestyle choices and losing just 5% of their excess adipose tissue (fat) weight.

Gestational Diabetes – A form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and goes away as the baby is born. Between 5 – 8% of pregnant woman will develop gestational diabetes and is usually around week 24 – 28 in pregnancy. It is extremely important to have a follow-up glucose test 6-8 weeks after the baby is born to check that things have returned to normal. This test can be completed with Clinipath Pathology, as well as fertility tracking, situated within our clinic. They are open Monday-Friday from 7.30am – 11.30am.

How can diabetes be managed?

While many people live with Diabetes as a lifelong disease, we can take steps to prevent and best manage our health. Reducing excess weight, keeping blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels within reasonable limits and getting regular exercise are all part of a sound management plan. Recent research has shown that Diabetes is a chronic and complex disease that requires a multidisciplinary collaborative care approach.

If you or someone you know has Diabetes, the clinicians at WLC Medical can assist in creating an overall health plan, with your regular GP, to best manage it and assist in working toward being your happiest and healthiest selves.