Insulin helps move glucose (a type of sugar your body needs for energy) out of your blood and into your cells.
When you have diabetes, the amount of glucose in your blood starts to rise.
High blood glucose levels can make you feel unwell. For example:
- Tired – you’re not getting all the energy you need
- Toilet – your kidneys are trying to get rid of the extra glucose in your blood
- Thirsty – because you are losing fluid going to the toilet
- Hungry – because you’re not getting all the energy you need
- Blurred vision – if your blood glucose levels are high, this will get better once you start to manage your diabetes
- Cuts and wounds – take longer to heal when your blood glucose levels are high
People with very high blood glucose levels may also lose weight (usually in people with undiagnosed type 1 diabetes).
Often people do not feel any different, especially early on with type 2 diabetes.
High blood glucose levels can also cause serious long-term health problems, such as to your kidneys, feet, eyes and heart or cardiovascular health.
Different types of diabetes
There are many different types of diabetes. However, the three most common types are:
Type 1 diabetes: when your body no longer produces any insulin. People of all ages can develop type 1 diabetes. In Tasmania, about 10% of all people with diabetes have type 1.
Type 2 diabetes: when your body makes some but not enough insulin and the insulin is not working as well as it used to. This is the most common type of diabetes in Tasmania (about 90% of all people with diabetes).
Gestational diabetes: develops during pregnancy when the hormones produced by the placenta reduce the action of the mother’s insulin. About 14% of pregnant women in Tasmania develop gestational diabetes.
How is diabetes diagnosed?
Diabetes can only be diagnosed with a blood test ordered by your GP or nurse practitioner. A finger prick test using a hand-held glucose meter cannot be used to diagnose diabetes.
There are different blood tests to diagnose diabetes:
- Glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c): this test is a measure of your average blood glucose over the last two to three months. It is measured in percent (%). An HbA1c of 6.5% or more means diabetes is likely. Between 6.0% to 6.4% would indicate pre-diabetes. (You do not need to fast for this test).
- Fasting blood glucose: this test measures how much glucose is in your blood stream at a certain time of day when you haven’t eaten. It is measured in mmol/L (millimoles per litre). A fasting blood glucose of 7.0 mmol/L or more would indicate diabetes is likely. Between 6.1 mmol/L and 6.9 mmol/L is likely pre-diabetes (also called impaired fasting glucose).
- Non-fasting (or random) blood glucose: this test measures how much glucose is in your blood stream at a certain type of day if you haven’t been fasting or have eaten something recently. It is measured in mmol/L (millimoles per litre). A random (non-fasting) blood glucose of 11.1 mmol/L or more would indicate diabetes. Between 7.8 mmol/L and 11.0 mmol/L is likely pre-diabetes (also called impaired glucose tolerance).
- Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT): this test combines a fasting and a non-fasting blood glucose test. After the fasting blood test, you will take a very sweet drink and your blood glucose will be tested at 1 hour and 2 hours after that. The results are in mmol/L (millimoles per litre). Diabetes is likely if your fasting level is 7.0mmol/L or above, or your 2-hour level is 11.1 mmol/L or above.
Your GP may order a second blood test to confirm diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is usually confirmed with an extra blood test to check autoantibodies. These are the ‘defence’ proteins the immune system produces, which can stop the pancreas from making insulin. There are five known autoantibodies related to type 1 diabetes. If any of these are high, then that would confirm you have type 1 diabetes.
Living well with diabetes
People with diabetes can live a healthy life with the right support and care. Contact Diabetes Tasmania if you wish to talk to a health professional, get more information, or join one of our programs.