At Local Doctors and White Cross GP clinics we’re experienced at diagnosing diabetes and helping people with diabetes live well.
Sometimes the most common form of diabetes, called type 2 diabetes, can be prevented from developing in the first place, and even greatly improved once you have symptoms. We’ll tell you how further down.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes happens when your blood sugar levels are too high; that’s because your body can either no longer make the hormone insulin, or can no longer make proper use of the insulin it produces.
If your body does not make insulin at all, this is known as type 1 diabetes. This type of diabetes cannot be prevented and there is no cure, but it can be controlled with insulin injections, healthy food choices and exercise. About one
in 10 diabetics have type 1 diabetes.
When your body can still make insulin but not enough, or can no longer use it properly, this is known as type 2 diabetes; this is far more common in New Zealand than type 1 diabetes. With good management, your blood glucose levels may go down to normal again. This does not mean you are cured, but you will be able to control and prevent damage to various parts of your body.
Type 1 diabetes is an ‘auto-immune’ condition where your body attacks the pancreas cells that make insulin. It most often starts in childhood from age 7–12 years. But it can occur at any age.
Type 2 diabetes most often occurs after the ages of 30–40 years. However, increasing numbers of teenagers and children in New Zealand are developing type 2 diabetes.
It’s important to know your risk of getting type 2 diabetes and to look out for symptoms, because the earlier you see your doctor the better it will be for you.
You’re more likely to get type 2 diabetes if:
- you are European aged 40 years or older
- there is diabetes in your family (grandparents, parents, brothers or sisters)
- you are of Māori, Asian, Middle Eastern or Pasifika descent aged 30 years or older
- you have high blood pressure
- you are overweight (especially around your waist)
- you have been diagnosed as having pre-diabetes – this occurs when the sugar in your blood is higher than normal, but not high enough to be called diabetes
- you get diabetes during your pregnancy (known as gestational diabetes).
What does it mean if I have diabetes?
In untreated or uncontrolled diabetes the excess blood sugar can damage blood vessels throughout your body and cause complications. For example, it can severely damage the eyes, kidneys and nerves. It can also cause sexual problems and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes
It is not uncommon to have had type 2 diabetes for many years without knowing it, because not all people have symptoms or don’t know what they are:
- tired and lacking energy
- excessive thirst and hunger
- peeing a lot
- slow healing wounds
- blurred vision.
If you have any of these symptoms, please make an appointment to see a Local Doctors nurse or doctor. If you are feeling very unwell, seek help straight away.
Read about diabetes and diabetes support services at Local Doctors and White Cross in our Diabetes flyer.
What is pre-diabetes and can I prevent getting type 2 diabetes?
You may be told you have pre-diabetes; this is when the amount of sugar in your blood is higher than normal, but not high enough to be type 2 diabetes. If you have pre-diabetes, you are at much higher risk of getting type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Symptoms of pre-diabetes are the same as for type 2 diabetes.
People with and without pre-diabetes can prevent getting type 2 diabetes if they: lose weight, eat less and exercise more.
Watch videos about healthy lifestyle choices here.
How is diabetes diagnosed and monitored?
If your doctor thinks you could have diabetes, or when they need to monitor your diabetes, they will ask you to have some tests. You will have a blood test called an HbA1c that will show the average of your blood sugar levels over the past 2 or 3 months.
You may also have a fasting plasma glucose blood test. Sometimes you may also have to have an oral glucose tolerance test, which measures your blood sugar before and 2 hours after you drink a sweet drink to see how your body handles the sugar
How is type 2 diabetes treated and managed?
The goal is to lower your blood sugar levels and improve your body’s use of insulin.
First, your doctor will suggest you make changes to your lifestyle:
- eat a healthy diet
- get regular exercise
- lose weight
- quit smoking.
If these work, you may not need to take any medicines. Some people, however, may also have to take medication. After many years with diabetes, most people need tablets or insulin as well as their food and exercise plan to keep their sugar levels healthy.
Diabetes health coaching at Local Doctors
At Local Doctors we offer a diabetes programme using health coaches and self-management educators to support you to get better and stay well. A health coach is a person from the community who has lived with and experienced a long-term condition ‒ most importantly they look and sound just like you!
Your health coach will partner with you to make sure you understand diabetes, tests like the HbA1c, your treatment and how to achieve your health goals. Health coaches also offer phone support between doctor’s visits and offer courses and resources, either within the clinic or where you live. Ask your nurse or GP about Local Doctors health coaches and how you can get support.
Watch our video about Phil who has benefited from having a diabetes health coach below.