Diagnosing Diabetes Early Saves Lives

19 Jul 2005

AMA President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, said today that while 520,000 Australians have been diagnosed with diabetes, there are probably as many again who remain undiagnosed, exposing them to serious complications caused by the disease, including kidney disease, heart attacks and eye problems.

Dr Haikerwal made the comments during the Federal AMA's 13th Family Doctor Week (FDW). The theme this year is GPs are Lifesavers.

"There are two forms of diabetes," Dr Haikerwal said.

"Type 1 is more common in children and younger people and accounts for 10-15 per cent of all cases of diabetes. It is not affected by lifestyle. These people need insulin injections.

"But it's Type 2 Diabetes, the non-insulin dependent form that's the real worry. It accounts for 85-90 per cent of all cases - and it's on the rise.

"This is a lifestyle disease and is strongly associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and the classic 'apple-shaped' body where there is extra weight around the waist.

"While it usually affects mature adults, younger people, even children, are getting Type 2 Diabetes.

"Type 2 Diabetes includes an early stage when significant damage is being done to the body but the person has no symptoms.

"Diabetes is easy to diagnose with a simple blood test.

"The good news is that Type 2 Diabetes can be controlled or even prevented by keeping your weight down, doing some form of daily exercise, and eating a balanced diet. Diabetics can minimise the impact of the disease by controlling sugar intake, weight and other risk factors.

"I encourage everyone to have an annual check up with their GP, even if they feel well. GPs can check for diabetes in patients who are at risk through a simple blood test. They can also talk to patients about a range of lifestyle issues that affect their health," Dr Haikerwal said.

Dr Haikerwal said groups most at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes include people who have previously had a slightly abnormal sugar test but which was not sufficient to diagnose Type 2 diabetes.

"These people should be tested at least annually," Dr Haikerwal said.

"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and people of Pacific Islander descent, people from the Indian subcontinent and people of Chinese origin, who are 35 and over, should also be tested annually. …/more

"People aged 45 and over who are obese (BMI of 30 or over) and have high blood pressure, people who have had heart attack, angina or stroke, and women with polycystic ovary syndrome who are also obese, should also be tested annually," Dr Haikerwal said.


  • Diabetes is Australia's fastest-growing chronic disease
  • It is the seventh highest cause of death in Australia
  • People with diabetes are almost three times more likely to have high blood pressure, obesity or high cholesterol
  • They are two to three times more likely to suffer from heart disease or stroke
  • 65-80 per cent of people with diabetes will die of coronary heart disease
  • 15 per cent of people with diabetes have heart disease compared to 2.5 per cent without diabetes
  • Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure
  • Renal disease accounts for 8-14 per cent of deaths in people with diabetes
  • 5 per cent of people with diabetes will experience foot ulcers
  • Of the 3000 amputations in people with diabetes, most are preventable
  • Visual problems are common in people with diabetes
  • Diabetes is the most common cause of blindness for people under 60
  • Australia's indigenous population suffers the fourth highest rate of Type 2 diabetes in the world
  • 1,048 people are diagnosed every week, 150 people every day
  • An average of 55,000 people are diagnosed in Australia every year.

(From Diabetes Australia Fact Sheets)

There will be a range of FDW activities co-ordinated out of the Federal and State AMA offices. For more details call Kristen Connell on 02 6270 5439 or 0409 070 346. An image of this year's FDW poster is available on the AMA's website www.ama.com.au.

The AMA's 2005 Family Doctor Week is supported by American Express.

19 July 2005

CONTACT: Judith Tokley, AMA Public Affairs (02) 6270 5471 / (0408) 824 306

Kristen Connell, AMA GP Department (02) 6270 5439 / (0409) 070 346

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