National Diabetes Week: Simple test saves lives

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More than 500,000 Australians live with an undiagnosed ‘silent killer’ – but a simple test can help prevent potentially fatal complications.

Diabetes affects the body’s ability to control blood-sugar levels, and if untreated it can lead to heart and kidney disease, nerve damage, and eye and foot problems.

“When it comes to diabetes don’t sugar-coat it, see your General Practitioner and get tested because a little prick could save your life,” said Dr Luke Conway, a specialist endocrinologist at Cairns Private Hospital. 

According to Diabetes Australia, 640 children and adults are admitted to hospital every year because the early warning signs of type 1 diabetes – when the body’s immune system attacks cells that make insulin – are missed. 

“I know some people take better care of their car than their own health, and we need to change that,” explained Dr Conway, speaking to promote National Diabetes Week, from Sunday 12 July - Saturday 18 July.

“Diabetes is an insidious, silent killer and many people may initially have no symptoms or signs for months or years, so it’s important to get checked out.” 

People with type 1 diabetes need to take medication to regulate their insulin levels, while those with type 2 can usually control the condition through diet and lifestyle changes.

Dr Conway said living with the disease “can sometimes feel like a full-time job” – and this year National Diabetes Week is focused on supporting the emotional and mental health wellbeing of sufferers, along with promoting awareness of testing.

“We know people living with the condition are at an increased risk of depression and anxiety. It’s important that patients don’t neglect their mental health and it’s also important to have a superstar team cheering you on,” Dr Conway said. 

Advancements in technology have made treatment easier, including subsidised once-weekly medications that control blood-glucose levels and help with weight loss.

“Patients under the age of 21, or who have a healthcare card, can also access continuous glucose monitoring devices for free. They’re small sensors, about the size of a 20-cent piece, that can make life much easier for patients to keep their glucose on target,” Dr Conway said. 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to not developing type 1 or type 2 diabetes, he added. 

“Be physically active. The best activity is the one that you enjoy and gets you moving.” 

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