Reduce the risks through good lifestyle choices, recognise the early warning signs and understand the condition

Diabetes is the epidemic of the 21st century and the biggest challenge confronting Australia’s health system.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a serious complex condition which can affect the entire body. Diabetes requires daily self-care and if complications develop, diabetes can have a significant impact on quality of life and can reduce life expectancy. While there is currently no cure for diabetes, you can live an enjoyable life by learning about the condition and effectively managing it.

There are different types of diabetes; all types are complex and serious. The three main types of diabetes are type 1type 2 and gestational diabetes.

Why is diabetes increasing?

All types of diabetes are increasing in prevalence:

  • Type 1 diabetes accounts for 10% of all diabetes and is increasing
  • Type 2 diabetes accounts for 85% of all diabetes and is increasing
  • Gestational diabetes in pregnancy is increasing

Type 2 diabetes is increasing at the fastest rate. There are large numbers of people with silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes which may be damaging their bodies. An estimated 2 million Australians are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and are already showing early signs of the condition.

Type 2 diabetes is one of the major consequences of the obesity epidemic. The combination of massive changes to diet and the food supply, combined with massive changes to physical activity with more sedentary work and less activity, means most populations are seeing more type 2 diabetes.

Genes also play a part with higher risk of type 2 diabetes in Chinese, South Asian, Indian, Pacific Islander and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations.

Type 2 Diabetes can be serious if not diagnosed early

Diabetes complications


Is the leading cause of preventable blindness in Australia, with between 25% and 35% of Australians report some form of diabetic retinopathy

Kidney disease

An estimated 360,000 people with diabetes in Australia are living with kidney disease and 3,500 people are on dialysis due to kidney disease every year


Every year there are more than 27,600 hospital admissions in Australia for diabetes-related foot ulcers in Australia – many of these ends with people having a limb, or part of a limb, amputated

Heart disease

People with diabetes are between two and four times more likely to develop heart disease and heart disease is the number one cause of death for people with type 2 diabetes

Whilst risk factors like family history and ethnicity cannot be changed, there is strong international evidence showing that diabetes prevention programs can help prevent type 2 diabetes in up to 58 per cent of cases. There is no single cause of type 2 diabetes, but there are well-established risk factors.

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