Diabetes is a chronic disease with serious complications, currently affecting an estimated 1.7 million Australians. Almost 300 Australians develop diabetes every day, yet research shows that most Australians think diabetes is not a serious illness and believe they have a lower risk of developing it than they actually do.

Diabetes Mellitus (Diabetes) is the name given to a group of conditions that occurs when the level of glucose (a type of sugar) in the blood becomes higher than normal. Insulin is a hormone that moves glucose from your blood stream, into the cells of your body where it is used for energy. When you have diabetes, the body either can’t make enough insulin or the insulin that is being made does not work properly. This causes your blood glucose level to become too high. High blood glucose levels can affect both your short and long term health.

There are two main types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2.  At this stage there is no known cure for either type of diabetes, although diabetes can be well managed.

Diabetes Facts

  • Between 2000 and 2021, over 1.4 million people newly diagnosed with diabetes (incidence) were registered on the NDSS and APEG state-based registries, including type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and other diabetes but excluding gestational diabetes. This is about 64,000 people each year – an average of about 175 diagnosed individuals per day. In 2021, 49,900 people were newly diagnosed with diabetes in Australia (137 per day), equating to 194 per 100,000 population.
  • More than 1.3 million (1 in 20) Australians were living with diabetes in 2021.
  • AIHW stats More than 1 in 6 women (17.9%) who gave birth in 2021–22 was diagnosed with gestational diabetes (53,900 women).

How is diabetes diagnosed?

Diabetes is diagnosed by a blood test. Most people with type 1 diabetes and many with type 2 diabetes will present with symptoms of diabetes such as: increased thirst, urination and tiredness. Some people will also have signs of slow healing of wounds or persistent infections. However many people with type 2 diabetes have no symptoms at all.

The blood test is taken from a vein and sent to a pathology lab. The test may be either a fasting test (no food or fluid except water for eight hours), e.g. overnight, or a random test taken anytime during the day, or an Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT).

Diabetes is diagnosed when

  • Symptoms are present and fasting blood test result is at or above 7.0mmol/L or a random blood test result is at or above 11.1mmol/L
  • HbA1c blood test result is at or above 6.5% (48 mmol/mol)
  • There have been no symptoms and two abnormal blood glucose tests (as above) on separate days.

Frequently asked questions