Diabetes Week: Experts urge people to get tested

Diabetes sufferer Dave Guyatt speaks to Blacktown and Mount Druitt Hospitals senior endocrinologist Professor Glen Maberly.

Diabetes Australia is calling for emergency departments and GP clinics across Australia to conduct more routine detection in a bid to diagnose up to 500,000 Australians who may currently have silent, undiagnosed type 2 diabetes kicking off National Diabetes Week.

People can have type 2 diabetes for up to seven years before it is diagnosed and in that time many 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.

New figures were released at Blacktown Hospital, one of Australia’s diabetes hotspots, where an innovative diabetes detection program has found that about half of people being checked in the emergency department and other settings are found to have either prediabetes or type 2 diabetes – much worse than experts previously believed.

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 that could translate to savings of more than $700 million for the Australian health system each year,” Diabetes Australia CEO Professor Greg Johnson said.

“Early detection and early treatment is likely to provide lasting health benefits to people with type 2 diabetes.

“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.

The innovative approach at Blacktown Hospital where Dr Glen Maberly has led the way in early detection of previously undiagnosed, silent type 2 diabetes is a great example of what is possible, at low cost.

“We knew the diabetes problem in western Sydney was serious but our proactive detection has revealed it is much worse than we first thought,” Dr Maberly said.

Dr Maberly’s team initially coordinated the detection of patients presenting to Emergency Departments (EDs)at Blacktown and Mt Druitt hospitals.

Under the program, patients presenting for other conditions and who needed blood tests, were also checked for type 2 diabetes using the HbA1c blood test.

Of the 48,000 patients checked in EDs, 30 per cent were likely to have pre-diabetes, while 17 per cent were likely to have type 2 diabetes.

In the second phase, supported by Western Sydney Primary Health Network (PHN), 11 GPs across western Sydney did diabetes checks on patients who were having blood tests for other problems.

“The results from the GP checks for type 2 diabetes were alarming … of the nearly 6,000 people tested, 26 per cent were found to have pre-diabetes, while 17 per cent were likely to have type 2 diabetes,” Professor Maberly said.

Diabetes NSW & ACT CEO Sturt Eastwood said early diagnosis is critical to reducing the likelihood and impact of diabetes-related complications.

“People can live with type 2 diabetes for up to seven years before being diagnosed and in that time life-threatening health problems can develop,” Mr Eastwood said.

“The earlier people are diagnosed, the earlier they can get the right treatment, which will reduce their risk of developing diabetes-related complications including limb amputation, blindness, kidney failure and heart disease.

“It’s about reducing the time people have undiagnosed, silent type 2 diabetes.”

For more information, including campaign videos and other sources please visit: itsabouttime.org.au