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Warning: Too Much Sugar

It's about time we all knew more about diabetes.

July is Diabetes Month and an opportunity for us all to find out more about the biggest challenge confronting Australia’s health system.

According to Diabetes Australia and Diabetes Queensland, there are currently an estimated 1.7 million Australians living with diabetes, which includes about 1.2 million people known and registered with all types of diabetes as well as an estimated 500,000 people with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes¹

Every day a further 280 Australians² are diagnosed, including about 60 people with Type 2³ and up to two people with Type 1 diabetes in Queensland.4 That's one person every five minutes.

The total annual cost impact of diabetes in Australia is estimated at $14.6 billion.5

Let's go back to basics and learn more about this health challenge that is costing Australia $400,000 a day.


Our bodies require energy to function and the food we eat provides this daily fuel. The carbohydrate in our food and drink is turned into glucose (a type of sugar) our body's main source of energy.

Insulin is a hormone made by your pancreas. It assists in moving glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of your body to be used for energy.

Diabetes mellitus (or simply diabetes) is the name of a group of serious lifelong diseases where there is too much sugar (glucose) in the blood.

When you have diabetes your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes a build up of glucose known as 'hyperglycaemia' or high blood glucose. High glucose levels over time can damage the body's blood vessels and nerves, leading to long term consequences such as heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and nerve damage in the feet resulting in amputations.

There is currently no cure for diabetes, however, you can live an enjoyable life through effectively managing the condition.


The main 3 diabetes signs are:

  • Increased thirst

  • Increased need to urinate

  • Increased hunger


There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

You may have also heard of Pre-diabetes (or glucose intolerance). This is the condition people develop before Type 2 diabetes. Pre-diabetes occurs when the blood glucose level is higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes.


Type 1 diabetes is a life-long auto-immune condition, usually diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood, where our own immune system is activated to attack and destroy the beta cells in the pancreas which produce insulin.

As the body needs insulin to survive, people with Type 1 diabetes must replace this insulin every day, given by injections or through a pump. We do not know what causes this auto-immune reaction, it is not linked to modifiable lifestyle factors and there is no cure and cannot be prevented.


Type 1 diabetes affects approximately 10% of people with diabetes.



  • Excessive thirst

  • Passing more urine

  • Feeling tired and lethargic

  • Unexplained weight loss

  • Abdominal pain

  • Increased hunger

  • Cuts that heal slowly

  • Itching, skin infections

  • Feeling dizzy, occasionally loss of consciousness

  • Blurred vision

  • Mood swings

  • Headaches

These symptoms may occur suddenly. If they occur, see a doctor.


Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, affecting approximately 85 to 90 per cent of all people with diabetes. It is a progressive condition where the body still produces some insulin but either does not produce enough, the insulin does not work effectively, or the body does not respond to insulin (known as insulin resistance). This results in the inability to keep the blood glucose levels within a healthy range.

We do not know what causes Type 2 diabetes, It is linked with modifiable lifestyle risk factors and family genetics.


The symptoms of Type 2 diabetes may not be obvious. In some cases, by the time Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed, the complications may already be present.

Symptoms include:

  • Excessive thirst

  • Passing more urine

  • Feeling tired and lethargic

  • Always feeling hungry

  • Having cuts that heal slowly

  • Itching, skin infections

  • Blurred vision

  • Gradually putting on weight

  • Mood swings

  • Headaches

  • Feeling dizzy

  • Leg cramps



Gestational diabetes mellitus (sometimes referred to as GDM) is the fastest growing type of diabetes in Australia, affecting thousands of pregnant women.6 Usually occurring at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy, all pregnant women should be tested for gestational diabetes at this stage (except women who are already diagnosed with diabetes).

The good news is that gestational diabetes usually goes away once the baby is born, however having gestation diabetes will put a women at an increased risk over her lifetime of developing type 2 diabetes. Women with gestational diabetes are recommended to take an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) six to eight weeks after the delivery, in order to gauge whether their blood glucose levels are back to a healthy range.


Gestational diabetes will not lead to your baby being born with diabetes but can contribute to health issues in the baby and the mother.



Diabetes is diagnosed by a blood test arranged by your doctor.

If you're concerned that you may be at risk of diabetes (especially if you have symptoms, have had gestational diabetes or have a family member with diabetes) or have been diagnosed with diabetes you may be eligible for a number of management and support plans.

You may be eligible for the Annual Diabetes Cycle of Care which is a checklist to help assist you in keeping your diabetes controlled and your healthcare on track.

Our team of nurses can provide ongoing support and assist you in the use of blood glucose monitoring and insulin administration.

You may also be Eligible for a GP management plan and Team Care Arrangement which entitles you to Medicare rebate service from a range of Allied Health Services such as Dietician, Diabetes Educator and Exercise Physiologist.

Resources & references:

1. Diabetes Australia website (Feb 2016)

2. Diabetes Australia website (Feb, 2016),

3. Qld Chief Health Officer Report, "The Health of Queenslanders" media release, 2014,

4. NDSS, September 2015




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