Currently, there is no comprehensive national type 2 diabetes early detection program in Australia. This means that people could be unknowingly living with type 2 diabetes for up to 7 years before it is diagnosed.
In that time, many of these people will begin to develop debilitating complications. This can include heart attacks and strokes, eye damage and blindness, foot ulcers and limb amputation, and kidney damage. In many cases, these complications could have been prevented with early detection and optimal treatment.
There may be up to 500,000 Australians with silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes. By the time people with diabetes receive a diagnosis, as many as half have already developed diabetes-related complications.
By the time of clinical Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, between 1 in 10 and 1 in 5 people already show signs of diabetic retinopathy, which leads to blindness. The onset of diabetes-related retinopathy occurs approximately 4 – 7 years before diagnosis.
Diabetes Australia CEO, Professor Greg Johnson, urged Governments to take action now to ensure the earlier detection of type 2 diabetes.
“With an estimated 500,000 Australians having undiagnosed type 2 diabetes, early detection and early treatment is likely to provide lasting health benefits,” says Prof Johnson.
“Systematic early detection of type 2 diabetes is inexpensive and can be rolled out easily. It’s about time we did so.
“We are calling for the HbA1c test to be incorporated with other blood tests in ER’s and other times when doctors are ordering a range of blood tests. An HbA1c blood test measures long-term blood glucose levels and is used for the detection and subsequent monitoring of diabetes.”
A comprehensive early detection program unfortunately isn’t a reality yet. Therefore, it is recommended that anyone over the age of 40, and those at high risk, should be screened with a fasting blood glucose test. This test should be repeated every three years.
People who are at high risk include people with an AUSDRISK score over 12, people who have had a cardiovascular event, women who have been previously diagnosed with gestational diabetes, women with polycystic ovary syndrome and people who are using certain kinds of antipsychotic medication. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should begin having risk assessments from the age of 18.
For more information, visit itsabouttime.org.au