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This week is National Diabetes Week (8 July – 14 July) and Diabetes Australia has launched its ‘About Time’ campaign to draw attention to the importance of early diabetes detection.

Currently, there is no comprehensive national type 2 diabetes early detection program in Australia, which means that people could be unknowingly living with type 2 diabetes for up to seven years before it is diagnosed.

In that time, many of these people will begin to develop debilitating complications including heart attacks and strokes, eye damage and blindness, foot ulcers and limb amputation, and kidney damage. In many cases, complications can be prevented with early detection and optimal treatment.

Why early detection is important

There may be up to 500,000 Australians with silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes and significant complications from diabetes can often start before diagnosis. By the time people with diabetes receive a diagnosis, as many as half have already developed one or more 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 – before people develop complications.

“With an estimated 500,000 Australians having silent, 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 emergency departments 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.”

Related content: Link between blood sugar and cognitive decline

Current diabetes assessments and screenings

While a comprehensive early detection program isn’t a reality yet, everyone over the aged of 40 and those at high risk of diabetes should be screened for diabetes with a fasting blood glucose test 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.

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Belinda Peters
Belinda brings more than 17 years experience in journalism to her role as Seasons Digital Content Writer. As our blog editor, Belinda will take the confusion out of aged care with entertaining and informative stories from across the aged care industry and our Seasons communities.