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Society’s silent killer

JUVENILE diabetes (or Type 1 diabetes) is a terrible and deadly disease affecting the most helpless members of our society – children.

It is the most common chronic childhood disease and affects more young people than cancer or cystic fibrosis.

Juvenile diabetes makes up only 10 per cent of all diabetes cases in Australia.

Adult diabetes or Type 2 diabetes accounts for the other 90 per cent. It is likely that diabetes affects almost a million Australians today, and by 2010, more than 1.15 million will be afflicted.

But even more shocking is that almost half of the 800,000 people in Australia with Type 2 diabetes don’t know they have it.

According to the Diabetes Association of Western Australia (DAWA) there are 40,000 West Australians who unknowingly have Type 2.

The association will promote awareness of the disease during World Diabetes Day on Tuesday.

It may seem difficult to understand how such a deadly disease can go undiagnosed in so many adults until you consider some of the more common symptoms of this subtle, sneaky killer: tiredness, blurred vision and slow wound healing.

Sound familiar? That’s the problem, some Type 2 symptoms are signals many associate with aging.

Other subtle indicators such as thirst, itchy skin, frequent urination, tingling in the hands or feet and weight loss are every day complaints that are often overlooked.

It’s easy to see why.

According to some sources, two of every 100 Australians have diabetes, but don’t know it.

Catching adult diabetes early is critical, not only because of the insidious results of having the disease remain untreated, but because diabetes is treatable.

According to DAWA general manager Rhys Jones, Type 2 diabetes is one of the most preventable health conditions in Australia.

“If diabetes is detected early, complications can be prevented from developing,” Mr Jones said.

“In fact through adopting lifestyle considerations (diet and exercise) diabetes may even be prevented.”

Considering the disease is the sixth leading cause of death in Australia, with heart and circulation problems accounting for around 65 per cent of these deaths, it is certainly worth preventing.

Not to mention some of the long-term results: diabetes is the leading cause of blindness (in adults under the age of 60) and non-traumatic amputation.

Other long-term effects include sexual dysfunction, kidney disease, nerve damage, foot ulcers, Charcot joints and renal failure (stroke).

The best way to avoid the onset of adult diabetes is to eat correctly and exercise regularly (half an hour each day).

If you have diabetes, you should consult your doctor and nutritionist for a diet and exercise program.

If you would like to be tested for diabetes DAWA will offer a free health test at Burswood Park on World Diabetes Day, Tuesday, from 9am to 3.30pm.

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