Doctors are using the National Awareness Week campaign to let the nation know it’s time to get serious about the crisis.
It’s now so bad that every day there are 12 amputations on diabetes sufferers, costing Australia almost $1 billion annually.
Diabetes Australia chief executive Greg Johnson says the health system is struggling to cope.
“Worryingly, surveys show that the general public underestimates the seriousness of diabetes and most people aren’t aware of the connection between diabetes and amputations,” Greg told the launch of National Diabetes Week in Melbourne.
Eighty-five percent of diabetes-related amputations could be prevented if problems were detected early on, he said.
That’s because almost all diabetes-related amputations start as sores or ulcers on the foot that if detected and treated when they appear don’t usually progress to amputation level.
Doctors say diabetes sufferers should have their feet checked twice a year to make sure they don’t risk having to get limbs amputated.
Gerard Fogarty, CEO of Defence Health, Australia’s leading restricted NFP health fund, is also calling for better collaboration between health insurers and healthcare providers.
“Currently, private health insurers have restricted visibility regarding what GP and specialist services their members use,” he says.
“It’s not until someone is admitted to hospital that we find out they’ve been unwell. Even with de identification of patients to uphold privacy policies, increased communication between healthcare providers and insurers will enable us to be proactive in providing targeted preventative care and mitigate the growing severity of Type 2 diabetes, as well as other chronic conditions.”
Type 2 diabetes cannot be cured, only managed, and the symptoms range depending on the individual and the severity of the disease.
Initially it can be managed with healthy eating and physical activity but it can require medication and often results in insulin injections.
“Type 2 diabetes can also result in further health complications such as kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, nerve problems, and even blindness, to name a few.
Aside from health complications, the average cost of Type 2 diabetes for an individual is around $4,000 a year and, depending on the severity, can reach upward of $9,000, he estimates.
Gerard says Australians need to start living the outdoor lifestyle many people overseas think we live.
“The fact that Type 2 diabetes is something you get primarily because of inactivity and poor eating is an indictment on the lifestyle many people are leading.”