Fears for diabetes epidemic as cases rise

SOUTH-WEST health services could be facing a diabetes epidemic in the near future after new figures revealed  that cases have almost doubled in the past decade. 

Data provided by South West Healthcare  shows up to 3297 cases of type 1 and 2 diabetes in Warrnambool, Moyne and Corangamite areas last year. 

Eleven years ago that figure was just 1888. 

An average of four people are diagnosed with diabetes across the region each week. 

Seven diabetes educators are based in the Warrnambool Community Health Facility at South West Healthcare (SWH).

As staff in the facility mark World Diabetes Day today, they are warning that the south-west will face an epidemic in the future if the number of new cases is not turned around.

“Over the last 10 years we’ve had an average of almost 150 per cent increase in the rate of diabetes in this region ... it is probably slightly above the worldwide trend for diabetes and the trend within Australia,” South West Healthcare’s Warrnambool community health manager Janine Dureau-Finn said. 

The dramatic rise in diabetes cases is also due to better screening for the chronic condition. 

“We’re certainly screening a whole lot more and we know for every known diagnosed case of diabetes there is someone out there who is not diagnosed,” SWH diabetes educator Anna Borthwick said. 

“But I think it’s increasing at an alarming rate beyond what we thought it would be.

“If diabetes continues at the rate it is it will be an epidemic. 

“We can deal with the rate of people who have diabetes but we will struggle if they all develop complications.”

While lifestyle choices and exercise were a leading factor behind the onset of type 2 diabetes, Ms Borthwick said those with a family history of the condition were also at significant risk. 

She said management options including goal setting and lifestyle changes had also improved to reduce complications. 

“Years ago we would have seen a lot of complications come through our hospital doors that were leading to infections or amputations but these days with our programs we run here at South West Healthcare we’re seeing self-management helping decline these complications,” she said. 

Those over the age of 65 were the most prevalent, but Ms Borthwick urged anyone above 30 to book in for a check if they showed symptoms such as slow-healing wounds, unexplained weight loss, excessive thirst or hunger and blurred vision. 

“We used to say that anyone who was above 40 who had a significant health concern — these days we’re saying that anyone who is over 30 who has a health concern should get a check,” she said.

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