Diabetes Australia launches campaign to improve awareness of type 1 diabetes

Diabetes Australia has launched a campaign, “It’s About Time”, to encourage the community, families, schools and health professionals to recognise the early signs  of type 1 diabetes and help avoid many hospitalisations.

The organisation’s chief executive Professor Greg Johnson said: “Each year hundreds of Australians including many children end up in hospital emergency rooms in serious, life-threatening situations because the early signs of type 1 diabetes are not recognised.

“Failure to recognise the early symptoms of type 1 diabetes such as severe fatigue, thirst, increased visits to the toilet and weight loss can lead to a dangerous condition called diabetes ketoacidosis.

“Every year around 640 people including many children only learn they’ve got type 1 diabetes after presenting to hospital, often with diabetes ketoacidosis. This can be life threatening. But most of these hospitalisations could be avoided if the early signs were identified and the type 1 diabetes treated before progressing to ketoacidosis.”

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. The cause is unknown and type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented.

There is no cure.

People with type 1 diabetes depend on injections of insulin every day to replace the insulin the body cannot produce. They must check their blood glucose levels several times throughout the day.

Prof Johnson said everyone should learn the early signs of type 1 diabetes.

“Type 1 diabetes is far more common than most people think. Over 3000 Australians are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes every year. Half of these are children and adolescents,” he said.

“It’s about time we all knew the early signs of type 1 diabetes. People should look for the 4Ts:

· Thirst – are they really thirsty and unable to quench that thirst? 

· Toilet – are they going to the toilet a lot?

· Tired – are they more tired than usual?

· Thinner – have they recently lost weight?

“If you see these early signs, see a doctor straight away and ask about type 1 diabetes.”

Professor Jerry Wales, from the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane said the hospital continued to see a higher than expected number of children arriving at hospital with diabetes ketoacidosis.

“Too many children arrive at hospital seriously ill from type 1 diabetes and it is only when they get to hospital that they are diagnosed,” Professor Wales said.

“Diabetes ketoacidosis is a serious condition associated with high blood glucose levels. It is a sign of insufficient insulin. People who are showing signs of diabetes ketoacidosis need urgent medical assistance.

“This is frustrating because it can generally be avoided if people recognise the early signs of type 1 diabetes and seek medical help.

“International research shows increased awareness of the early signs of type 1 diabetes amongst the entire community, from families and schools through to health professionals, helps reduce the number of people admitted to hospital before being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

“It’s about time we all learnt the early signs of type 1 diabetes – the 4T,” he said.

Brisbane mum Jessica Browning’s experience in the lead up to her son Reuben’s diagnosis is far too common.

“Looking back I realise now that I started seeing early signs of type 1 diabetes about two months before Reuben was diagnosed. He was extra thirsty, irritable, he’d lost weight and some nights he was wetting the bed,” Jessica said.

“We went back and forth to the doctors and they kept saying it was a viral infection but Reuben just kept getting worse. One Saturday his breathing had started to get worse and the GP said it was tonsillitis and sent us home again but by the next day I was really getting uncomfortable with his breathing so I took him up to the local hospital."

“We were lucky a nurse knew it was type 1 diabetes almost as soon as we arrived. She said if we hadn’t arrived sooner he wouldn’t have woken up the next morning.

“One of the scariest things was when they told me he wasn’t tired, he was falling in and out of consciousness. It was really touch and go for a while.

“This year for National Diabetes Week I’m asking everybody to learn the 4Ts of type 1 diabetes – Thinner, Toilet, Thirst and Tired. If you see someone displaying these signs talk to a doctor straight away.”

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