Up to 500,000 Australians may have type 2 diabetes without knowing it, putting them at risk of devastating health consequences, health experts have warned.
Due to low screening rates across the country, one in three people are unaware they have type two diabetes and are being left vulnerable to serious health issues.
Type 2 diabetes is the leading cause of preventable blindness, limb amputation and end-stage kidney disease in Australia.
Diabetes Australia CEO Greg Johnson said only five per cent of Australians over 40 have had a check for type 2 diabetes in the last two years.
“The high figures are really startling and alarming,” he said.
“The critical thing here is many people actually have type two diabetes for up to seven years before it’s diagnosed and during that time it could be silently doing damage to your body.
“If we detect it early and if we treat it we can actually prevent most or all of the complications.”
Mr Johnson said people often ask what symptoms to look out for but he stressed one cannot wait to experience symptoms.
“It’s often silent but doing damage to all the organs in the body so people need to have regular checks.
Diabetes NSW and ACT chief executive Sturt Eastwood said one in three people with type 2 diabetes have not been diagnosed even though diagnosis is simple.
“I really recommend you add a diabetes test your next visit to your GP,” Mr Eastwood said.
“And if you are over 50 or you have anyone in your family with diabetes I would recommend you start that process today.”
‘The scariest thing ever’
Belinda Nakota was diagnosed with diabetes 15 years ago when a urinary tract infection unveiled a deeper problem.
“I was shocked to say the least,” she said.
“I went through many different feelings about the whole thing.
“If I didn’t have the urinary tract infection I would have no idea I had diabetes.”
Ms Nakota said doctors were unable to tell her how long she had diabetes for which she found terrifying.
“I could have had it for two, five or 10 years and I didn’t know.”
She also struggled to control the condition which lead to her toe being amputated.
“That was the scariest thing ever… to have a piece of… to have a limb chopped off.”
“You really need to get checked, it’s just so important.”