It is the fastest growing health condition in Australia. And with over 1.8 million Australians currently diagnosed with (all types of) diabetes and an additional 280 Australians being diagnosed with diabetes every day, diabetes is becoming a 21st century epidemic.
Diabetes is a serious condition where a person’s body cannot maintain healthy levels of glucose, the main source of energy for our bodies, in the blood, leading to a long list of complications including an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and blindness. While there are three separate incarnations of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. All are complex and can have a significant impact on quality of life without ongoing management.
However, it is type 2 diabetes that represents 87% per cent of all cases of diabetes in Australia. It is a condition where the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or does not respond to insulin correctly (known as insulin resistance, a precursor to developing type 2 diabetes).
Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition generally managed through the use of oral medication or insulin injections, but the good news is that through recognising the early warning signs, it is possible to prevent and or significantly slow type 2 diabetes’ progression through lifestyle changes.
The early warning signs of type 2 diabetes
The following symptoms are some of the most common warning signs of Type 2 Diabetes. Make an appointment with your GP if you are experiencing any of these indicators with any frequency.
1. Thirst – An excessive or unquenchable thirst is one of the first signs that you may have developed type 2 diabetes as too much sugar (glucose) in your blood can leave your body dehydrated.
2. Increased hunger – In type 2 diabetes, the body is not able to properly process insulin and cannot enter the cells so the body can’t convert food into energy, so the body increases feelings of hunger in an effort to deliver energy to the cells so the body can function properly.
3. Dry mouth – While there are other causes, a dry mouth is a relatively common symptom for people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes due mostly to the effects of dehydration. Studies have also shown that people with diabetes may produce less saliva.
4. Fatigue – Lethargy and fatigue are common symptoms of diabetes, with some research indicating that as many as 61 percent of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes reporting symptoms of fatigue.
5. Frequent urination – When the kidneys are forced to work overtime to filter and absorb an excess of glucose it leads to an increase in urine production as well as frequency and urgency.
6. Poor Vision – Changing fluid levels in your body can cause swelling in the lenses of eyes leading to blurred vision. Diabetes also increases the risk of other eye problems including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts and glaucoma, and can lead to vision loss.
7. Slow wound healing – As high blood sugar over time can affect blood flow and nerve damage, people with diabetes can find wounds take longer to heal, increasing the risk of infections and other complications.
8. Numbness in the extremities – Over time, high blood sugar can cause diabetic neuropathy, nerve damage, throughout the body. This often manifests as numbness, tingling, or pain in the extremities, and most commonly affects the feet and legs.
9. Yeast infections – Yeast feeds on glucose. When blood sugar levels spike high levels, it can create the perfect conditions for yeast infections to thrive.
10. Mood swings – Diabetes can affect moods and mental health with frequent fluctuations in blood glucose levels leading to irritability. Individuals living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are also at increased risk for depression, anxiety, and eating disorders.
Are you at risk of type 2 diabetes?
The following conditions increase a woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and it is recommended to speak to your GP about a diabetes test if any of these are applicable to you.
Family history – a family history of type 2 diabetes increases your personal risk of the condition.
Obesity - or being overweight is a major risk and increases the likelihood of developing type diabetes dramatically.
Fat distribution – Weight that is distributed around the abdomen as opposed to hips and thighs increases the risk.
Sedentary lifestyle – The less you exercise the higher your risk, physical activity not only helps to maintain and control weight but uses glucose and can increase cell sensitivity to insulin.
Disclaimer: This article provides general information only, and does not constitute medical advice. If you have any concerns regarding your health or mental health, seek appropriate medical care or contact Lifeline on 131 114.