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Diabetes: the silent pandemic and its impact on Australia

14 March 2012

Diabetes is a challenging problem for public health worldwide. This new report by the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute investigates why growing numbers of Australians are diagnosed with this silent  deadly disease each year.

It is a chronic disorder in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond adequately to the insulin that is produced. There are two main types of diabetes:

• type 1 diabetes, which is characterised by the autoimmune destruction of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas

• type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form and is characterised by a reduced production of insulin and an inability of the body tissues to respond fully to insulin.

As there is currently no cure for diabetes, the condition requires lifelong management. In the case of type 1 diabetes, this means keeping blood glucose levels within safe levels through multiple daily insulin injections or a continuous infusion of insulin through an insulin pump. For type 2 diabetes, blood glucose levels are managed through medication, diet, and exercise or a combination of these.

People with diabetes frequently also require treatment to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. However, despite reaching epidemic levels globally, type 2 diabetes remains under-reported, in part because often people do not realise they have it until they develop complications.