Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes in Australia, accounting for approximately 87% of diabetes: that's over 1.2 million people
Type 2 diabetes occurs when there is not enough insulin, or the insulin produced does not work effectively (also known as insulin resistance), to keep blood glucose levels within a healthy range. The body's pancreas continues to produce insulin, but insulin production may slowly decline over time. Because of this, type 2 diabetes can be considered a progressive condition meaning that treatment may change as time goes on.
Type 2 diabetes mostly develops in adults, but younger people can also develop type 2 diabetes. The exact cause of type 2 diabetes is unknown, but common risk factors include: a family history of diabetes, having gestational diabetes (diabetes in pregnancy), poor diet, and lack of physical activity. Other factors include being from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background, being from a Melanesian, Polynesian, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern, or Indian background, age (the risk for type 2 diabetes increases with age), and having pre-diabetes.
A person may be living with type 2 diabetes and experience no symptoms, or may not be aware of the symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes
Many people with type 2 diabetes do not notice any symptoms. In some cases, people may have been living with diabetes for many years before being diagnosed.
Symptoms of type 2 diabetes can include tiredness, blurred vision, skin infections or slow healing cuts, and gradual weight gain. Other symptoms to look out for include excessive thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger and, leg cramps or tingling in legs or feet.
These symptoms occur due to high blood glucose levels. For some people, the symptoms may appear slowly over time and go unnoticed. For others, diabetes is diagnosed when a complication presents (e.g., heart attack, foot ulcer, or vision problems).
Early detection of diabetes is important because it can help delay or prevent diabetes-related complications.
It is important to have regular checks with your GP if you are at risk of type 2 diabetes, or if you are concerned with changes to your health or how you are feeling. Your GP can arrange a blood test to determine your diabetes status.
A person living with type 2 diabetes may face yearly healthcare costs ranging from $4,025 (if no complications) to $9,625 (if complications)
The financial costs of type 2 diabetes are significant, increasing when diabetes-related complications are present. Diabetes is associated with nerve damage and poor circulation, leading to foot ulcers, infections, limb amputation, vision loss, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease (including heart attack or stroke). The cost to manage diabetes and potential complications include medications, equipment, hospital stays or emergency visits, and medical visits (GP or specialists appointments). The cost may also include transport, supported accommodation, or purchase of special products (e.g., hypoglycaemia treatment).
Serious complications may result from high blood glucose levels over a prolonged time. The complications are mostly preventable and may be delayed with the help of the healthcare team. Prevention involves early treatment of the condition, good self-management, and regular medical checkups. Living a healthy lifestyle is very important. The financial cost of diabetes at a personal and health system level can be reduced.
You can estimate your risk of getting type 2 diabetes in the next 5 years with a simple tool
The Australian type 2 diabetes risk assessment tool (AUSDRISK) is a shortlist of questions developed to assess a person's risk for type 2 diabetes over the next five years. The questionnaire asks you about your age, gender, ethnicity, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, Pacific Islander, or Maori descent. It will also consider your family history of diabetes, lifestyle (smoking, physical activity, fruit, and vegetable intake), and waist measurement or clothing size.
Based on this information, the AUSDRISK tool provides you with a score indicating your likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes over the next five years (low risk, intermediate risk, or high risk). The AUSDRISK tool is not a diagnostic tool. If you have an intermediate to high risk, discuss your score with your GP – they can talk to you about checking for diabetes or preventing type 2 diabetes.
Regular checks with your health care team can reduce the risk of developing diabetes-related complications
Complications of diabetes may occur when blood glucose levels are continuously above target ranges. Complications of diabetes can involve the large bloods vessels (macro-vascular) or small blood vessels (micro-vascular). Macro-vascular complications can include heart attack or stroke, microvascular complications can include kidney damage (nephropathy), poor blood circulation especially to the lower leg/feet, nerve damage (neuropathy), eye damage (retinopathy), and impaired hearing.
Complications occur when blood glucose levels remain high over time causing damage to the vessels that supply blood to these areas of the body. These complications can be prevented or delayed with good daily self-management of blood glucose levels, taking any required medication as prescribed, healthy eating, physical activity, not smoking, and limiting alcohol. Your diabetes health care team may include your GP and a combination of one or more of the following: a diabetes educator, a dietitian, an endocrinologist (medical specialist), a podiatrist, an ophthalmologist and optometrist, a pharmacist, a psychologist, an exercise physiologist, and a dentist.