What Is Type 2 diabetes?
If you have type 2 diabetes it means your pancreas is no longer producing enough insulin, or the insulin you are producing is not working effectively (your body has become resistant).
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that develops over a period of years. As your body becomes resistant to insulin your pancreas will work harder and harder to produce more insulin so it can process the glucose in your bloodstream. Over time the cells in your pancreas can become worn out, while your body’s resistance to insulin continues to grow.
This means that type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition. Over time you may need medication, and in some cases insulin, to manage your blood glucose levels.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
There are a number of risk factors for type 2 diabetes including having family members with diabetes, your cultural background and leading an unhealthy lifestyle.
The symptoms can take a very long time to appear, which means you could be living with it for a long time before you are diagnosed. It usually develops in people over the age of 45, although it is becoming increasingly common in younger people.
Regular physical activity, following a healthy eating plan and having regular health checks can help you reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you have already been diagnosed, these measures can also help you to live well with diabetes and reduce the risk of developing complications.
Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition that tends to develop gradually. As a result, signs and symptoms may develop very slowly. You may not notice the signs or symptoms at all, or you may dismiss them as a normal part of getting older.
This can mean that by the time you notice something, you may have been living with diabetes for some years, and you could be at risk of developing complications. In some cases, those complications may be the first sign that you have diabetes.
- Passing urine more frequently, commonly noticed at night
- Dry mouth
- Being more thirsty than usual
- Feeling tired, lethargic or irritable
- Constantly feeling hungry despite having eaten
- Having cuts, sores or ulcers that heal slowly
- Itching, skin infections
- Thrush or bladder infections
- Blurred vision
- Weight changes – commonly a gradual increase in weight
- Mood swings
- Feeling dizzy
- Pain or tingling in the lower legs and/or feet
If you notice one or more of these signs or symptoms, you should make an appointment to see your doctor immediately.
Early detection and treatment of diabetes can prevent the development of serious, and in some cases life-threatening, health problems.
Complications of diabetes
There are a number of complications associated with diabetes. If diabetes is left undiagnosed or unchecked for too long, it can lead to serious and often life threatening health complications. Some of the serious complications which can arise from diabetes include:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Vision loss and blindness
- Limb amputation
- Depression, stress and burnout
- Sexual dysfunction
- Persistent infections
This video explains more about the health complications which are associated with living with diabetes.
It’s important to understand the health complications associated with diabetes. If you have questions talk to your doctor, a member of your diabetes healthcare team or call us on 1300 342 238.
Complications more specific to type 2 diabetes
Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder where your breathing pauses or you have some moments of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep. People with sleep apnoea commonly snore. Although you may seem asleep, your quality of sleep suffers greatly. Constantly gasping for air prevents you from achieving a deep sleep, leaving you sleep deprived.
Sleep apnoea makes up around 80 per cent of sleep-related breathing disorders. It affects up to four percent of men and two percent of women in Australia. Clinical studies have shown that diabetes and sleep apnoea are closely linked, with sleep apnoea sufferers nine times more likely to also have type 2 diabetes.
Anxious or worried about diabetes complications?
If you find yourself feeling anxious or worried about the complications of diabetes, you may want to use our Psychologist on Call service. Our Psychologist, is available for confidential phone discussions to help you develop strategies for managing your diabetes and get you back to a happy fulfilling life. If you would like to access this service, call our Helpline on 1300 342 238 to make an appointment.
I've just been diagnosed
If you’ve just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes you could be feeling overwhelmed and going through a range of emotions including anger, sadness, grief, denial, loss or fear. If you’ve been experiencing symptoms for a while, you may also be feeling a sense of relief at finally knowing what you’re dealing with. These are all normal responses.
The first thing to know is that you are not alone. Many thousands of Australians are living well with diabetes every day.
Below are some helpful first steps you can take to set yourself up to manage your diabetes and live well.
Make sure you have a diabetes healthcare team
If you’re living with type 2 diabetes it’s recommended you have a healthcare team to provide support and help you manage your diabetes. Your healthcare team may include your GP, an endocrinologist, exercise physiologist, dietitian and diabetes educator.
Learn more about how each health professional can help you.
Your healthcare team will help you register for the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS).
Register for the NDSS
The NDSS provides a range of services to help you manage your diabetes including free and subsidised products, educational events, and advice via the NDSS Helpline – 1800 637 700.
These services are available to everyone registered with the NDSS, which is open to all Australians who:
- Are residents of Australia,
- Have been diagnosed with diabetes by a medical practitioner, and
- Hold a current Australian Medicare card or Department of Veterans’ Affairs file number.
To register for the NDSS:
- Complete the registration form, which you can download it here, or ask your doctor, hospital or pharmacy for a printed copy.
- Have the form certified by a registered medical practitioner such as your doctor, endocrinologist or credentialed diabetes educator.
- Email the form to email@example.com, or mail it to the address provided on the form.
For more information about the NDSS or for help with registering for the scheme, call the Helpline on 1800 637 700.
Find out more about diabetes and how to manage it
It’s really important for someone living with diabetes to understand how the condition affects their body. It’s a good idea to attend diabetes education sessions and talk to your diabetes educator or your doctor about any questions or concerns you might have.
We have a lot of helpful resources available including diabetes information sheets and useful websites.
If you join Diabetes NSW & ACT you have access to free and discounted events as well as the support of a team of health professionals. Specialising in everything related to type 2 diabetes in Australia, they are there anytime you have questions or need support. Find out more about the benefits of becoming a member and being part of a community that cares.
Create a support network
It’s really helpful to have people around you who are aware of your diagnosis and can offer you the support and care you need. Remember:
- Everyone has different experiences with diabetes
- Treatment recommendations are individual
- Diabetes support groups are there to help you
- Services are available to assist with important issues
It is important to talk about your feelings and counselling may be helpful. Diabetes NSW & ACT has a Psychologist on Call service. Our Psychologist, is available for confidential and informal discussions over the phone to help you develop strategies to manage your diabetes and get you back to a happier more fulfilling life. If you would like to access this service please call our contact centre on 1300 342 238 to make an appointment.
It’s also valuable to share your concerns and talk to your loved ones about your diagnosis. Perhaps you could invite them to see your GP with you so they can be reassured about how to manage your diabetes together.
Remember you are not alone. There are lots of people who can help you!
Help and support
When you’re first diagnosed with diabetes it’s important to spend time with your healthcare team including your credentialed diabetes educator and endocrinologist so you understand how to manage your diabetes and live well.
You also have access to a range of services, programs, events and information to help make managing your diabetes on a day-to-day basis a little easier.
Factsheets and translated resources
To help you understand and better manage your diabetes we have developed a range of information sheets covering topics such as diabetes and exercise, dietary advice and diabetes self-management. The information has been designed to help you maintain your health and wellbeing and lower your risk of developing diabetes-related complications.
Download our helpful factsheets.
Our information sheets have also been translated into 20 languages for culturally and linguistically diverse communities with a high prevalence of diabetes. Download our translated resources.
Events and group education programs
Diabetes events and group education programs are a great opportunity for you to meet with health professionals such as credentialed diabetes educators, accredited practicing dietitians and exercise physiologists. They also help you connect and share experiences with others living with diabetes.
The more you know, the more confident you will become and the easier it will be to manage your diabetes. That’s why our events and group education programs focus on providing you with information, practical advice and product knowledge. Sessions are delivered for all types of diabetes in major cities, regional and rural areas, and cover topics such as:
- Diabetes self-management strategies
- Healthy eating, carbohydrate counting and food choices
- Understanding medications and insulin use
- Dealing with complications that may arise
- Looking after your emotional health
You can find information on upcoming events in your area by visiting our education and events page.
Need help or advice?
If you’d like more information or guidance about living with type 2 diabetes, speak to a member of your diabetes healthcare team or contact the Diabetes NSW & ACT contact centre on 1300 342 238 and ask to speak to a diabetes educator. Our aim is to spread awareness and offer support to sufferers of type 2 diabetes in Australia. Learn more about how we are proactively achieving this here.