What is diabetes?

Diabetes is the name given to a group of conditions in which there is too much glucose in the blood. Glucose is the body’s main source of fuel or energy. This is where insulin enters the story.

Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. It opens the channels that let glucose move from the blood to the body’s cells, where energy can be used. Without insulin doing its job, the glucose channels are shut and glucose builds up in the blood. This can lead to high blood glucose levels, which can cause the many health problems linked to diabetes.

There are 3 main types of diabetes:

• Type 1 diabetes: In type1 diabetes, the body’s own immune system destroys the cells that make insulin. The exact cause of this is unknown, and there is currently no cure. People with type 1 diabetes have to inject insulin several times every day for the rest of their lives. They live with this condition 24/7.

• Type 2 diabetes: The onset of type 2 diabetes is more gradual that type 1 diabetes, as the body becomes resistant to insulin and/or doesn’t produce enough insulin in the pancreas. There are known risk factors. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are over three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared with non-Aboriginal people.

• Gestational diabetes: This is a type of diabetes that can occur during pregnancy. It needs to be managed carefully to protect the health of the unborn baby. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after the baby is born. However, women who have had gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Why is diabetes invisible?

Diabetes is an invisible condition that doesn’t discriminate. People with diabetes look like everybody else - they come in all shapes, sizes, ages, gender identities and ethnicities. You cannot see if somebody has diabetes, nor can you tell which type of diabetes they have.

Some people hide their diabetes from others because of the many myths and misconceptions around this condition, which all need to be dispelled.

Diabetes can be difficult to manage on a day-to-day basis. People living with diabetes have to measure their blood glucose levels many times a day. Otherwise, they may not see nor understand if they are within target range. Friends and family of people living with diabetes may not see if they are low or high either. This is all part of the invisibility of the condition.

Why is diabetes too important to ignore?

If blood glucose levels remain too high (known as hyperglycaemia) over a long period of time, this puts the person at risk of developing complications, such as vision loss, stroke, kidney failure and heart attack. These complications do not develop overnight. However, they are serious and may be prevented with careful management of diabetes.

If blood glucose levels are too low (known as hypoglycaemia or a hypo), this can make it hard to concentrate, put the person at risk of collapse or injury and make it dangerous to drive or operate machinery.

Around 1.7 million Australians live with diabetes. This includes over 1.2 million people registered with the National Diabetes Services Scheme, as well as an estimated 500,000 with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. These people may not have any warning signs indicating something is amiss in their bodies. Diabetes Victoria estimates that there are currently 435,000 people living with diabetes in our state – more than 310,000 registered with the NDSS and 125,000 with undiagnosed type 2 diabetes.

Every day, more than 80 Victorians develop diabetes.

Take action

Diabetes Victoria works to support, empower and campaign for all people living with, or affected by, all types of diabetes – as well as all people at risk of type 2 diabetes.

Share video

Diabetes Victoria has produced a 30-second video highlighting the fact that diabetes is an invisible condition which affects people from all walks of life. Please help us share this message.

Social media

We have prepared suggested Facebook and Twitter posts for you to use during National Diabetes Week. Please use the hashtag #InvisibleCondition and link your posts to our campaign website: www.invisiblecondition.org.au

Social media kit

Campaign kit

Would you like to display our campaign poster or hold a fundraiser during National Diabetes Week? Download our campaign kit containing a printable poster, fundraising ideas, social media templates and the shell media release.

Campaign kit

Media release

Are you a member of a community group or are you a health professional supporting people with diabetes? Why not contact your local newspaper and let them know what activities you have planned for National Diabetes Week? Our template media release can help you get the media’s attention. All you need to do is download the template, personalise it with your own details and send it to your local newspaper.

Campaign media release Template media release

Connect with us

Continue to support our work by following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Speak up - Campaign

Now is the time for you to make your mark by asking your local Member of Parliament to increase funding for a cure for diabetes. Make your voice heard and sign our online petition.

We will be taking all signatures to our next Victorian Parliamentary Diabetes Support Group meeting later this year. The group’s objective is to raise awareness about the prevalence of diabetes and educate various Members of Parliament about the seriousness of diabetes.

Also, you may like to write a letter to your local Member of Parliament on this issue.

Sign the petition

*Mandatory fields
Please fill in your first name.
Please fill in your family name.
Please fill in your 4 digit postcode.

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Prevent type 2 diabetes

It is estimated that 2 million Australians are at high-risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Pre-diabetes is when blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but not high enough for type 2 diabetes to be diagnosed. Pre-diabetes is an invisible condition, so many people may not know they are at risk.

Diabetes is a serious and complex health condition. The symptoms may not be obvious, so it’s important to check your risk.

The good news is that if you find that you are at high risk, there is something you can do about it. Around 60% of type 2 diabetes cases can be prevented or delayed by making small changes to your lifestyle, including maintaining a healthy weight, eating well and being active.

The first thing to do is find out your risk. You can find out right now using our free online risk test. It will only take three or so minutes.