A spotlight on Diabetes

A spotlight on Diabetes



For people with diabetes, the proper management of their diabetes in conjunction with other health related supports, is critical to their health, wellbeing, and quality of life.

What is diabetes?

The Diabetes Australia website explains that “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.”

How does diabetes affect the body?

When a person has diabetes, their body can’t naturally maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood. Glucose is a form of sugar and the main source of energy for our body. Healthy bodies convert glucose (sugar) from food into energy or fuel for our bodies. A hormone called insulin is essential to convert glucose into energy. When a person has diabetes, their bodies don’t produce insulin, or enough insulin, to enable the conversion of glucose into energy. This means that when they eat glucose, which is in lots of foods such as breads, cereals, fruit and starchy vegetables, legumes, milk, yoghurt and sweets, it can’t be converted into energy.

Instead, the glucose stays in their blood resulting in high blood glucose levels, known as hyperglycemia.

Early warning signs of hyperglycemia

Typical symptoms of high sugar may include:

  • Increased thirst and/or hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Sugar in your urine
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue

Types of diabetes

There are two main types of diabetes:

Type 1: An autoimmune condition in which the immune system is activated to destroy the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. There is no cure for Type 1 diabetes and it cannot be prevented. Type 1 diabetes is not linked to modifiable lifestyle factors.

Type 2: Often a progressive condition in which the body becomes resistant to the normal effects of insulin and/or gradually loses the capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas. We don’t know what causes type 2 diabetes but it is associated with modifiable lifestyle risk factors and usually develops in adults over the age of 45. Type 2 diabetes develops slowly over a number of years.

The third type is gestational diabetes which is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. For most women, once their baby is born their diabetes goes away.

What is a Diabetes Management Plan?

Diabetes can be managed but it’s essential to get the right support in the day-to-day management of diabetes to help prevent associated short and long-term health problems. A Diabetes Management Plan is a document that provides guidelines to support people with diabetes. It is usually developed by health professionals in consultation with the person with diabetes, and/or their family, to outline the requirements for monitoring the impacts of diabetes, insulin administration and other needs.

For children, their plan can be used at home, at school or in other environments such as respite care (short term accommodation) so that their support network knows and understands what to do to support them.

More on Type 1 diabetes

As mentioned above, Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition. For people with Type 1 diabetes, their immune system is activated to destroy the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin. It’s not known what causes the autoimmune reaction and Type 1 diabetes and it is not linked to modifiable lifestyle factors in the way that Type 2 diabetes is.

Type 1 diabetes:

  • Occurs when the pancreas does not produce insulin
  • Represents around 10 per cent of all cases of diabetes
  • Is one of the most common chronic childhood conditions
  • Onset usually happens quickly and symptoms are obvious
  • Symptoms can include excessive thirst and urination, unexplained weight loss, weakness, fatigue and blurred vision
  • Is managed with insulin injections throughout the day or the use of an insulin pump.

What role does the pancreas play?

The pancreas is a large gland behind the stomach. When working properly, the pancreas produces the hormone insulin and secretes it into the bloodstream, to regulate blood glucose levels.

In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops making insulin because the cells that make the insulin have been destroyed by the body’s immune system. 

Therefore, those with Type 1 diabetes rely on insulin being administered via injections or a pump to replace the insulin that their body can’t produce.

What to do if your child has been diagnosed with diabetes

If your child has been diagnosed with diabetes you need to seek the appropriate support from health professionals. You should seek to get a diabetes management plan in place and ensure that everyone in your child’s support network understands their role in supporting and managing your child’s diabetes. Our nursing team can help with this.  

Find out more

Our nursing team are here to help. Simply call 1800 XAVIER, email for further information or visit our diabetes support page.